Newcastle Port to be privatised

NSW Treasurer Mike Baird today announced the government's 2013-14 budget aims to privatise Newcastle Port to fund capital works

Newcastle Port to be privatised
Newcastle Port to be privatised to fund city works

June 18, 2013

NSW Treasurer Mike Baird today announced the state government aims to privatise Newcastle Port and its facilities to fund capital works in the region.

As part of the NSW 2013-14 Budget, the O’Farrell government will proceed immediately to a scoping study on offering a 99-year lease on the Port of Newcastle.

Treasurer Baird says in a climate of falling revenues, where the state’s Triple A credit rating is under constant threat, the only way the state’s infrastructure backlog can be fixed is by recycling mature assets on the balance sheet to create the flexibility needed to invest in new ones.

Baird says if the transaction is successful, $340 million of the proceeds would be directed towards the revitalisation of central Newcastle, to which the Government has already committed $120 million.

"This will now go beyond a mere revitalisation: it will effectively be the rebirth of Newcastle as a modern city," Baird says.

"While the renewal of Newcastle will proceed regardless, the lease of the Port will allow us to turbo-charge this priority project," he says.

Baird says any transaction will include protections for current employees and Port of Newcastle users, along the lines of the lease of Port Botany and Port Kembla.

He says the 99-year lease will not proceed unless the scoping study confirms value for money.

"The recent transaction involving Botany and Kembla was the largest, in net terms, in the state’s history," Baird says.

"It delivered proceeds of around $4.3 billion to be invested in the NSW Government’s infrastructure fund, Restart NSW.

"Restart will fund the government’s commitment to the WestConnex motorway and will direct $270 million into critical infrastructure in the Illawarra, among other projects."

NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard adds the Government’s vision for Newcastle includes removing the heavy rail line between Wickham and Civic.

The extra funding provided by privatisation of the Port of Newcastle will make it possible to deliver light rail in the CBD, providing the potential basis for a wider light rail service linking the CBD with surrounding suburbs and beaches.

Hazzard adds the new light rail package has the potential to be the catalyst for addressing Newcastle’s transport needs and to provide the basis of further light rail extensions in the future.

Baird says the Government’s investment in the Newcastle renewal project would be coordinated through the Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund.

This will guarantee local expertise is applied to the project, and that any savings remain in the Hunter.

"The proposed new light rail option between Wickham and Newcastle is potentially only the beginning of a light rail system for Newcastle and the region," he says.

Baird adds $10 million will be allocated to explore the potential for this link to be the basis for light rail linking the CBD with surrounding suburbs, beaches and the broader Hunter region.

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