Cautious welcome for port merger
Cautious welcome for port merger

Leading national livestock exporter Wellard Rural Exports has given a cautious welcome to the State Government’s merger, announced on Thursday, of all Kimberley ports under one regional authority.

From 2014, the ports of Broome, Derby, Wyndham, Cockatoo Island and Koolan Island will be operated by one Kimberley Ports Authority, along with a new harbour to be constructed at James Price Point, as part of a Statewide restructure.

“No one likes to see any more red tape, but streamlining of some port systems may be good,” Wellard shipping manager Tim O’Donnell said.

“We have a very good relationship with both Broome and Wyndham … because they are a boutique port sort of setup, everyone is accessible and red tape and regulation is at a minimum.

“We can reach out and touch every level of management required, but progress is progress. There may be benefits in helping these two ports develop further as part of a Statewide model.”

Broome Port Authority chief executive Captain Vic Justice, who has been offered an extension to his contract, said the consolidation would cut through reels of red tape and boost efficiency through unified infrastructure across the Kimberley.

“Amalgamation will mean a heck of a lot more work. (Broome Port Authority) will be going from the port authority role in just one location to across a number of locations,” Capt. Justice said.

“It will mean we will take a regional perspective as opposed to a community perspective. We need to develop a community consultative process where we can reflect the ambitions and aspirations of the various communities.”

Wyndham Port operator Cambridge Gulf Limited said it would seek to ensure East Kimberley ports were not overshadowed by their West Kimberley counterparts on the new authority board.

“It is going to be based in Broome but it is a Kimberley Port Authority and we need to make sure that port authority represents the interests of the whole Kimberley,” chief executive Tony Chafer said.

“It’s pretty critical for us to get the right people on that board.” Mr Chafer disagreed with the State Government’s claim the reforms would reduce red tape for ports across the State.

“We need to make sure this new arrangement doesn’t introduce another level of bureaucracy that could potentially slow things down for us.”

He did not believe the reform would have any impact on port customers, including live exporters, and said it could help ports assist each other with services like marine pilotage.

Capt. Justice said the move would mean less competition between ports. “If a port needs funds they will have a much larger organisation to go and take their case to the State Government,” he said.

“In the fullness of time it is likely that we will have one or two people employed on location (at each port) to have a port authority presence on the ground.

“It certainly doesn’t mean there will be any job losses,” Capt. Justice said.

Transport Minister Troy Buswell said the consolidation was a response to growing demand for WA commodities and meant greater resourcing and co-ordination.

“Since 2000 the value of WA’s merchandise exports has risen by more than 300 per cent…and our share from 26 per cent to 46 percent of the nation’s total,” Mr Buswell said.

Capt. Justice said there was an “advanced precedent” for the port at James Price Point to be managed by Broome Port Authority.

He said it could be similar to Ashburton North and Anketell being managed by one port authority in the Pilbara.

Three other regional port authorities, for the Pilbara, Mid-West and Great Southern regions, will amalgamate seven of WA’s eight port authorities.

The four State regional port authorities will also control 13 smaller ports. Fremantle will remain a stand-alone port.

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