WA Labor asked to explain rush for Outer Harbour by State Treasurer and Melville Mayor

Fremantle Port.
Fremantle Port.

MELVILLE Mayor Russell Aubrey and WA Treasurer Mike Nahan have stepped up calls for WA Labor to explain its rush to build an Outer Harbour following revelations the existing Inner Harbour will not reach 90 per capacity until 2038.

Shadow treasurer Ben Wyatt has vowed to resign if Labor wins the March election and does not immediately begin work on the Outer Harbour, stating a belief that the Inner Harbour is nearing capacity.

Once an Outer Harbour is constructed, Labor plans to cap capacity at the Inner Harbour, reducing truck movements and rendering the Perth Freight Link (PFL) unnecessary.

However, an internal Fremantle Ports report – compiled with input from the Department of Transport and viewed in full by the Melville Times – appears to blow holes in claims the Inner Harbour is anywhere near capacity.

As reported by other media, the document estimates Inner Harbour capacity in a two terminal operation at 2.1 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

That is far higher than the previous assumption of 1.2 to 1.4 million TEUs and nearly three times the 715,000 TEUs handled in 2015-16.

Mr Aubrey said the report was a massive game changer and further underscored the importance of the PFL.

“The report finds that if the PFL is completed and the current port’s operation changed into a two terminal operation, Fremantle Port can increase its capacity by approximately 50 per cent and double its current longevity,” he said.

“We would all agree that is great value for money and the PFL, including Roe 8 and 9, is an intrinsic component to the successful optimisation of the expanded port’s operations into the future.”

Mr Nahan said Labor needed to explain how and why it proposed paying for a new port that was not required for two decades.

“Constraining Inner Harbour container capacity and bringing forward the Outer Harbour development would incur an additional cost in the billions of dollars,” he said.

“If taxpayers were forced to pay for that Outer Harbour prematurely – as Labor has suggested – it would be forced to substantially increase charges at the port, thereby destroying jobs and wasting taxpayers’ money.”

Mr Nahan also said the PFL was important both for container trade growth and improving general commuter traffic flows.

“We are building Roe 8 because it will cut congestion and significantly improve road safety in this area.”

But Opposition Leader Mark McGowan held firm, stating the PFL remained a “dud project”.

“All of the government’s modelling before PFL was cooked up made it clear Fremantle Port will reach capacity by the mid 2020s,” he said.

“Now all of a sudden it’s changed. They just can’t be believed.

“Just this week, we’ve learned that their thought-bubble tunnel to nowhere could actually cost four times what they have been telling the community.

“Our plan is ultimately based on the fact that WA cannot afford wasting billions of dollars on a truck tunnel that will eventually end at a port that is soon to reach capacity.”

TITLED The Inner and Outer Harbour’s development options evaluation report, the Fremantle Ports document examines at a high level three possible future configurations for the two harbours.

Option one carries a $2.8 billion price tag and is essentially a duplication of the Inner Harbour’s container facilities in a new Outer Harbour with trade then split between the two.

Option three, costed at around $5 billion, involves shutting down the Inner Harbour’s freight capacity completely and relocating all trade facilities to the new Outer Harbour.

All Inner Harbour operational land would then be sold to property developers.

For $4.1 billion, the preferred option two would relocate all container trade to the Outer Harbour and consolidate break bulk facilities at the Inner Habour’s North Quay.

The current operational land on Victoria Quay would then be sold off for urban development.

All three options carry potential environmental concerns, with between 18 million and 25.2 million cubic metres of dredging required; and the dumping of between 2 million and 9 million cubic metres of that material offshore.