Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Memo to potential investors in the Yamba Mega Port scheme

Dear Potential Investors,

You may have seen promotional material created by Australian Infrastructure Developments Pty Ltd or Y.P.R. Australia Pty Ltd for the unsolicited proposal often called the Port Yamba Development (Eastgate) or the Yamba Port Rail Project.

The material probably looks rather intriguing to many of you.

However, there are some matters that this promotional material either does not address or merely skates over.

Today is Wednesday, 10 August 2016.

This is the Port of Yamba Development project timeline still up on Australian Infrastructure Developments’ official company website:

Even if one allowed for the possibility that the NSW Baird Government is politically suicidal enough to give consent for a mega port in the Clarence River estuary and that the first terminals would not be operational until 31 December 2018, that only leaves Des Euen, Thomas Chiu and Lee Purves a mere 873 days to push this project to Stage 1 bulk terminals completion.

Before any part of the extensive port expansion scheme can be progressed there is the sensitive matter of Dirrangun reef, the breakwater walls and possibly the internal training walls, to be addressed. 

Once the potential impact of the removal or significant alteration of breakwater walls sinks in with the communities of Iluka and Yamba I suspect that the friction between community and Yamba Port Rail proponents will increase dramatically.

If any activity required to open up the river entrance for those mega ships looks like placing Dirrangun at risk I’m sure that the Yaegl people, who have now spent twenty years fighting to legally protect their river and dream time reef, will not be happy with the port expansion proceeding and they will have a right to be concerned. A right that is now legally recognized as existing since before written history began in Australia.

As neither Des, Thomas or Lee has held a public information night for Lower Clarence communities to date, that particular failure is going to place a drag on the company’s project timetable from the start.

The hypothetical clock is now ticking.

The dredging of an est. 20km of navigation channel inside the river, at the very least is going to require:

*negotiations with NSW government departments/agencies;

* a least two advertised tender invitations if investors are not planning to just throw their money away;

*sediment sampling at the proposed dredging site and particle size distribution and acid sulphate soils testing to assess sediment properties over the full depth to be dredged;

*assessment of potential impacts on threatened species including wading birds along the est 20 km length of the dredging site;

*assessment of potential noise impacts including what day or night hours of dredging/placement are acceptable; 

* the creation of a dredge spoil management plan;and

*consultation with Birrigan Gargle Local Aboriginal Land Council, Yaegl Traditional Owners Corporation as native title trustees, the general public, local residents and commercial operators, commercial and recreational fishermen, waterway users and environmental groups.

Staying with this hypothetical scenario. Once these lengthy negotiations, assessments and consultations are finalised I suspect the actual dredge and spoil disposal would take up to three years to complete. After all this dredge has to remove at least est.13 metres of river bed in every square metre of a continuous 20 km long line an est 60m wide.

Add to this the time needed to purchase privately held regionally important farm land which the company hasn’t even commenced yet – land held by a number of individual owners some of who are adamant they will not sell - and then allow time for the rezoning process which is bound to be resisted by local residents and affected Lower Clarence communities.  Now those 873 days are beginning to look very inadequate.

At this moment you may be thinking that if all the individual planning procedures were undertaken at the same time the port expansion might move forward faster. However, any large project is only as fast as its slowest strand of required assessment/modelling/
testing and this particular project is being undertaken by a company which admits it has never handled any sort of development project before.

By the time one factors in the many studies required to create a viable development application to commence construction of the built environment then 2023 would not be seen as a long enough time frame to finish Stage 1 bulk terminals.

Some of these studies would be obliged to include the sourcing, transport and stabilzation of enough fill to raise 36 of terminals and berths above projected flood levels and modelling of existing & changed flooding conditions - because all the proposed terminal & berth areas will be submerged in a 1 in 100 flood to est. depths of 0.05 to 2.8m unless the land is raised. 

At this point in the development process state and local government may become alarmed at the amount of flood water in even a 1 in 20 year flood that will be displaced by a mega port at the end of this ancient floodplain. 

Displaced water (that has likely in some flood events to come at some speed down both the Clarence River and out of the Esk River) which will almost inevitably inundate the proposed remaining undeveloped half of Palmers Island, along with low lying sections of  Woombah, Iluka, Yamba and Wooloweyah, as well as exacerbate upriver flooding as far as MacleanQuite rightly both tiers of government would quail at the thought of this occurring in conjunction with a king tide entering the mouth of the Clarence River and the clock might be permanently stopped on the mega port scheme then and there.

If not and planning madness prevails, the fact that a freight road bridge and new road/s would need to be built so that bulk product can actually reach the bulk terminals - because Stage 1 will not see a completed Pacific West Rail Link stretching from the coast to north-west NSW - and 2023 turns into a rather sad phantasy because the number of planning hoops the company has to jump through just grew in number.

Australian Infrastructure Developments and its shadowy backers would be foolish to believe that Stage 1 would be remotely achievable by 2028.

It is hard to imagine that Australian Infrastructure Developments will ever be able to establish the social contract with the Clarence Valley it needs to proceed, when its grand plan will diminish or destroy so many existing aesthetic, environmental, cultural, social and economic values within the estuary.

Twelve years is a long time to have investment money tied up in a mega port scheme that in all probability will be successfully scuppered by Northern Rivers people power.

Twelve years in which your company reputations and that of your principal shareholders will be held up for global scrutiny. 

Given the power of almost instant communication that the Internet will give to over 50,000 people and the ability of anyone of those with a personal computer to identify and research your company or superannuation fund, are you sure that the hope of future financial returns is worth the public relations risk?

If you think I exaggerate, ask Metgasco Limited what community resistance across the Northern Rivers did to its plans to develop gas fields.

So, potential investors – you might like to consider taking your money and committing it to an infrastructure project in a locality that actually wants what you believe you have to offer.

This is entirely friendly advice, because I like many others would prefer quietly enjoying the Clarence River estuary and the easy, relaxed lifestyle its healthy environment allows me, rather than spending the next twelve years as part of a peaceful but relentlessly effective grassroots protest movement making your corporate lives a misery.



Mouth of the Clarence River

1 comment:

LK said...

Great article, the Yamba Mega Port development is indeed a deluded fantasy of Euen and those shadowy backers, they are no chance.