Port of Newcastle has been urged not to renew Port Waratah Coal Services’ lease on the Carrington Coal Terminal after it expires in 2024.
It follows the release of a new report by economist Cameron Murray that found that the economic benefits of the Carrington site to Port of Newcastle and Port Waratah Coal Services would decline each year in line with a forecast decline in the coal industry.
At the same time, the economic benefits from alternative uses and consolidation of coal operations would grow significantly.
Dr Murray, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Sydney, also recommended that Port Waratah could consolidate its operations at its Kooragang terminal, which would open up the extensive Carrington site for alternative uses more compatible with the needs of surrounding communities.
Tighes Hill Community Group spokeswoman Charlotte McCabe said a transition plan to a clean energy future for Newcastle was desperately needed.
“It is no longer acceptable to locate 25 hectares of uncovered coal stockpiles adjacent to densely populated residential areas due to the health risks associated with coal dust,” Ms McCabe said.
“We know that the Port of Newcastle plan to diversify their operations and we think opening up the Carrington Coal Terminal site for alternative uses will help them to achieve that.”
The group, which presented the report to the Port of Newcastle on Thursday, argued locking in a long-term lease with Port Waratah would be risky given a steadily declining thermal coal market.
‘We are calling on the Port of Newcastle and their shareholders not to renew the Port Waratah’s lease at the Carrington Coal Terminal site on the basis of impacts to the local community, climate change and financial risk,” she said.
Port Waratah chief executive Hennie du Plooy said the Carrington terminal remained a key part of the company’s operations.
“Customer forecasts indicate that Port Waratah will require access to our infrastructure at Carrington beyond 2024,” he said.
Mr du Plooy confirmed the company was in negotiations for an extension of the lease with Port of Newcastle.
“We value the progress we’ve made and remain confident that we can reach an agreement that results in a mutually beneficial outcome,” he said.
While he agreed Dr Murray’s report had identified a number of relevant issues, he disputed aspects of its accuracy.
“It doesn’t accurately reflect Port Waratah’s position as an industry owned, not profit driven entity,” ” Mr du Plooy said.
“Our objective is to provide our reliable, flexible terminal services to our customers at the lowest sustainable cost.”
A Port of Newcastle spokesman said the port was committed to being a responsible custodian of the port on behalf of the community.
“It is reflective of a strong relationship that we’re able to have sensible discussions with community representatives about the current and future operations of the port,” he said.
“The Tighes Hill Community Group has been very clear about its ideas for the port and we are similarly upfront about our plans to facilitate existing and new trade and the importance of port diversification to underpin our economy and local jobs.”
“We welcome any community feedback and we thank the Tighes Hill Community Group for their ideas and thoughts on the long-term use of the Carrington precinct specifically”
Source: Newcastle Herald