Betraying the Chinese


The People’s Republic of China has an explicit “Belt and Road” strategy of colonising Pacific nations by progressive infrastructure interventions.

Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese interests have invested in a variety of real estate, pastoral, port, communications and especially Metro train projects.  They are coming to dominate the rail transit systems of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

They have used local business people in their HSBC and other banking and lobbying organisations who have been shown to lack the acumen and skills to add-value rather than slash-and-burn.

That is so of the Sydney Metro with its failed MTR model, and of the Port of Newcastle.  The latter’s amateurish management has been completely outmanoeuvred by the Federal and NSW Government.

Centurion planned a “heavy metro” service between Campbelltown and Wollongong as stage 1 of an High Speed Train between Canberra and Newcastle.  They included freight operations to/from Port Kembla.  The NSW Government said it will “unlock” Wilton to the tune of 350,000 people (the Council is planning 11,000).

To make a big project feasible on the basis of betterment – and the reality would be a mix – 100,000 lots would have to pay some $2.4 billion a year over 30 years or $25,000 p.a. per lot.  Clearly that would be absurd.  Maldon-Dombarton will be carrying 110 container trains a day plus car-carriers so Centurion are wrong.

Locking high speed rail into a value capture contract killed every previous attempt and will do the same.  Running a train largely down the freeway medians will better serve existing towns and allow some capture from new towns say at Marulan – but it would be cleaner, faster and more effective than misguided proposals.

The State Government’s update to its freight and ports Plan says that Newcastle has no impediment to servicing its own catchment, which the Port of Newcastle put theoretically at about 600,000 twenty-foot equivalent containers (TEU) a year.

The extent of the PON claim based on its Deloittes Report included Parkes and part of Queensland.  The volumes were predicted to grow from that small base by about 90 per cent up to 2050.

The Plan also allows for Port Botany to be the monopoly until 2040 or thereabouts, switching then to Port Kembla (which is within reach of the Parkes catchment);  and it promotes Parkes on the Inland Rail in parallel as it is “located within 12 hours by road or rail to 80 per cent of Australia’s population”.  Parkes has the support of Linfox and other haulier and rail majors.

In short, while a container precinct is being created at Mayfield, it might as well be used for a waste recycling centre or bottling plant – or whatever.  Newcastle’s possible catchment has shrunk dramatically.

This shows up the defects in the Port of Newcastle’s submission to Transport for NSW.   PON relied on a long-term public campaign to

… privately fund a rail freight bypass of Newcastle and Sydney by building a container terminal at the Port of Newcastle and railing containers and general freight for the Sydney market. 

PON has refused to adopt a smarter approach.  So have the City Council, Business Chamber and RDA (Hunter).  The Port is supposed to release yet another Port Masterplan that has no legitimate land infrastructure component.  The Regional Business Chamber was pursuing the Port’s own preference of that long rail by-pass of Sydney.  It was chaired by an executive of the Australian Rail Track Corporation which would build it.

That “silly walks” idea was always out of scale with the environmental damage, economic logic, and inevitable opposition of a State Government of either hue.  Why would they negate their own Port and rail depots?

That option has gone and the Port is refusing to pay for the copyright over an alternative route which is via Parkes and would require a different commercial negotiation.

Even DP World walked away and the Port’s claim that others are interested is not substantiated.  All governments pay lip service to the importance of planning the logistics industry.

PON’s investors cannot breakthrough in the confused state of Sydney’s malicious strategies and unfunded political promises.  The Chinese need to use smarter advisers.

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