Monday, 25 January 2016

Port of Yamba Expansion Deconstructed*: Des Euen is running out of timetable very fast

This was Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson in February 2011, on his own initiative, endorsing the heavy industrialisation of the Port of Yamba:
Click on image to enlarge

This was the Mayor in March a year later when approached by a journalist from The Daily Examiner:

Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson was succinct in his opposition to the proposal.
"In the words of Darryl Kerrigan (in The Castle), 'tell 'em they're dreaming' - it's not going to happen," he said.
Referring to the plan and other dubious ideas of diverting the Clarence inland, Mr Williamson said: "They probably want to fill the carriages up with water and take them back."

By then Des Euen appears to have two deregistered shelf companies behind him and was on the way to creating a new one.

Come July 2013 and local sentiment had filtered down to Macquarie Street, with then state treasurer and now NSW Premier Mike Baird having this to say on the subject:

NSW Treasurer Mike Baird has denied speculation the Port of Yamba would be developed to load coal from mines in north-western NSW….
he project was not endorsed by the Northern Rivers branch of RDA, which said the project would be met with community opposition in the Clarence Valley.
Rumours have abounded since.
When the State Government leased ports in Newcastle and Port Kembla to the mining sector, many asked if Yamba was next.
Shenhua Watermark, a mining company owned by the Chinese government, was thought to be a potential buyer of the lease of Port Yamba.
The lease is controlled by the NSW Government corporation Sydney Ports.
But Shenhua confirmed it expects to be able to freight all of the coal from its Gunnedah mine out of Newcastle.
A Shenhua spokesman confirmed an environmental impact statement had sanctioned this action.
Mr Baird's office also denied any offer had been made.
A spokeswoman said the NSW Government's asset transaction program had been very clear; there were no plans to lease the Port of Yamba.
When asked if any approach had been made by the mining sector she gave the following response:
"The port is not for lease," the spokeswoman said.
"The Treasurer does not comment on private meetings, however, we are not aware of any approaches on this occasion."

By August 2013 Mayor Williamson had adjusted his position and was singing a slightly different tune according to The Daily Examiner:

"We would welcome responsible and sustainable development and jobs in the Clarence Valley," Cr Williamson said.
"And any proposal that reflects that should be given due consideration on its merit."

Also in 2013 Euen began to link to material on the Internet such as:  - a document said to be a presentation at two-day Regional Ports Conference in 2013.

Mr. Euen added at least one other registered company to his personal stable of shelf corporations in 2014.

In May 2014 NSW Nationals MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis came out with a strongly worded statement for ABC News :

But Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis says the plans are a pie-in-the-sky idea.
He says a reef at the mouth of the Clarence River has indigenous significance, and the area is plagued by flooding.
Mr Gulaptis says nearby residential and agricultural areas could also be affected.
"There are significant constraints with Yamba," he said.
"Anybody who lives in the local area understands the dynamics of the river, they understand the problems that you need to overcome.
"And those problems, to be quite honest, are insurmountable.
"I don't think that we would tolerate that level of environmental destruction."
"Where he's proposing it is just out of the question to be quite honest."

In that same ABC news item, Mayor Williamson moves back in line with community sentiment:

The Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson says while there is potential for growth at the port, something of the scale being proposed by Mr Euen is unlikely.
"I'm struggling to come to terms with the proposal... there's some issues that certainly need to be addressed," he said.
"Building a 650-kilometre train line for a start is something that I'm struggling to come to terms with, to even service this sort of facility.
Cr Williamson says Y-P-R Australia has had some early discussions with council regarding the development, but the information provided is limited and it is not a realistic plan.
"I don't really know the exact parcel of land that is subject to this development at this stage, let alone the impacts of flooding and river depths and the cane industry, the tourism industry, the fishing industry, the environment and our general way of life," he said.
"The details have been very very scant.. it seems to be a long way off, if ever... and I think there would be considerable opposition".

In 2014 Des Euen placed two more presentations online  and, in June made a presentation to Moree Plains Council on Yamba Port & Rail 2023, followed up by contact with an Inverell councillor who spruiked for him at a September council meeting.

Somewhere along the line Euan launched another two documents into cyberspace:

The public service began weighing in by 20 October 2014 when Nationals Senator John Williams questioned Infrastructure Australia and the Australian Rail Track Corporation at a Senate estimates hearing:

Click on images to enlarge

Alert readers will notice that the completion date for the industrialization of the Clarence River estuary is given as 2023 - less than seven years away as I write this post.

Even some supporters of the 'New England rail trail project' apparently have their doubts about Mr. Euan and his proposal:

“I’d contrast that with what we have seen, where we know that all around NSW and including in Northern Tablelands, there are groups that are putting proposals into the transport and planning office,” Mr Goldstein said. 
“Anyone who is proposing any kind of major infrastructure project in NSW needs to sit down with minsters and with planning authorities. 
“They can’t expect to get anywhere without having those conversations.” 
He said there are still some considerable doubts over the project. 
“It’s a big if,” he said. “I think there are too many ifs to give a satisfactory answer.”

Come early 2015 and another slideshow blipped its way across Clarence Valley radar screens:

Sometime in 2015 there also seems to have been an unofficial name change to one of his little companies and yet another appeared allegedly created in Hong Kong.

At one unknown point in this timeline Des Euen has apparently acquired a professional lobbyist, Keith Blythe of Creative Customs Strategies.

Given the collective common sense of NSW North Coast National Party MPs is obviously not that high, it came as no surprise that Chris Gulaptis failed to rule out Euen’s grandiose plans when speaking to The Daily Examiner in June 2015:

A PROPOSAL to upgrade the Clarence Valley's link to the Northern Tablelands has been gaining traction in the corridors of Parliament House, Sydney, says the Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis.
Mr Gulaptis said he has been discussing a proposal to upgrade the Gwydir Highway between Grafton and Glen Innes with the Member for Northern Tablelands, Adam Marshall, with a view to forming transport hubs at either end.
"We're about to have an upgrade north-south link with the Pacific Highway, so having an east-west link to the Tablelands is the obvious next step," Mr Gulaptis said.
"When I began discussing it with the Member for Northern Tablelands, he thought it was a great idea."
The pair has presented their idea to State Minister for Roads Duncan Gay, who has encouraged them to work on it……
He said the east-west link would complete the requirements for a transport hub near Grafton, where road, rail and air links were all close by as well as suitable, available land.
He did not rule out including the Port of Yamba, but said there were still issues to consider there.

At the time it was rumoured that Gulaptis and Euan were in contact.

It is now only two years until 2018 and, Des Euan had told the world that he expected that part of his proposed bulk shipping terminal would be operational by then. 

I can find no evidence that: he has a commitment to his plan from either the federal or state governments; his company has purchased land on Goodwood Island; anyone entered into dredging or construction contracts relating to any port expansion; he has even begun organizing the many proposed development reports/assessments that would be required. 

In January 2016 Mr.Euan himself is somewhat uncharacteristically silent. Perhaps he has been too busy trying to breathe new life into his daydream by cut and pasting mythical new project start and completion dates into the pages of his power point slide collection.

* And yes, I am laughing at Mr. Euen's peculiar theory of port expansion lobbying

No comments: