Overview

On 5 June 2014 the Queensland Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning announced the release of the Queensland Ports Strategy (Strategy). The Strategy outlines the approach that the Queensland Government will take in managing the state’s ports network over the next ten years.

The key action areas in the Strategy are:

  1. establishing Priority Port Development Areas (PPDAs),
  2. prohibiting dredging for the development of new, or the expansion of existing, port facilities outside the PPDAs for the next ten years,
  3. developing port master plans that consider a number issues outside the traditional operational, economic, environmental and social port development requirements,
  4. introducing a number of legislative changes to streamline environmental approvals for port developments including a new legislative regime for ports, and
  5. improving supply chain coordination between ports, and connecting land and marine supply chain stakeholders.

Draft Strategy for consultation

The draft Queensland Ports Strategy was issued for public consultation in October 2013. The Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning reports that 231 written submissions were received during the consultation period. The majority of submissions were from individuals followed by submissions made by the ports industry.

As a result of the consultation process, a number of changes were made to the Strategy.

In particular:

  • the Queensland Government will now develop a number of technical guidelines to supplement the Strategy, for example guidelines will be introduced for, assessing dredging activities, assessing cumulative environmental impacts and the economic analysis of ports,
  • there will no longer be a review of port governance of the four Government Owned Corporations responsible for managing port facilities as part of the Strategy,
  • the Strategy clarifies how it will streamline environmental regulatory processes, and
  • the development of port master plans will now require stakeholder consultation.

Key action areas

Establishing Priority Port Development Areas

The Strategy establishes five PPDAs. In each of these areas, the Queensland Government will facilitate an incremental expansion of port and terminal capacity in accordance with customer demand and the Queensland Government’s long-term plans.

The five PPDAs declared in the Strategy are:

  • Port of Abbot Point,
  • Port of Brisbane,
  • Port of Gladstone,
  • Port of Hay Point and Port of Mackay, and
  • Port of Townsville.

The Strategy notes that these declared ports “are strategically positioned for future port growth with supply chain infrastructure connecting the ports to centres of production and demand”.

Port development

The Strategy prohibits dredging (outside the declared PPDAs) for the development of new, or the expansion of existing, port facilities within and adjoining the Great Barrier Reef Word Heritage Area. This prohibition will apply for the next 10 years, and responds to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s recommendation that the Queensland Government restrict port development outside the established port areas within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

There are however a number of exceptions to the general dredging prohibition. The dredging prohibition does not apply:

  • to port development proposals that have already commenced their assessment processes under Queensland or Commonwealth law, and
  • where dredging is undertaken for safety or navigation reasons, to increase a port’s resilience to natural events, to maintain the effective operation of existing port facilities, or for non-port related reasons.

The Strategy also states that the Queensland Government will develop technical guidelines for the assessment of dredging activities.

Port master plans

The Strategy states that a port master plan must be prepared for each PPDA. Port master plans will be used to assist the regulation of future port developments in PPDAs and, importantly, will inform the definition of the spatial boundaries for each PPDA.

A port master plan is a 30 year outlook that, among other things, includes:

  • trade forecasts and a port scenario analysis,
  • critical land-side and water-side logistics and operational matters (including the identification and protection of supply chains, transport linkages and infrastructure corridors),
  • environmental values and outcomes, and
  • port performance monitoring.

The Strategy notes that the identification and management of environmental values and outcomes is critical to the success of port master plans. In particular, each port master plan requires:

  • the identification and management of any applicable environmental values upfront, which includes, Matters of National Environmental Significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) or Matters of State Environmental Significance under Queensland’s State Planning Policy,
  • a port-specific environmental management framework (EMF) that manages land and marine-based environmental values, and
  • the EMF to address the cumulative impacts outside the boundary area of the project.

The development of a port master plan will require consultation with a number of stakeholders including port users, industry, supply chain operators, local governments and local communities. The Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning will be responsible for approving each port master plan.

Legislative reform

The Strategy provides that the Queensland Government will introduce legislation by the end of 2014 which will:

  • establish the five PPDAs,
  • prohibit dredging within and adjoining the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area for the development of new, or the expansion of existing, port facilities outside PPDAs for the next ten years,
  • require preparation of master plans for each PPDA in accordance with a statutory guideline, and
  • create development certainty in PPDAs by reducing duplication in assessment and approval requirements.

The Strategy also includes requirements for the Queensland Government to:

  • work to identify and implement administrative and/or legislative changes to provide streamlining benefits for port development,
  • review and amend State Planning Policy to reflect the state interest in PPDAs, and
  • streamline approvals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) through an approvals bilateral agreement with the Commonwealth Government.

Supply chain coordination

The Strategy aims to improve coordination among supply chain service providers and port infrastructure users. It is hoped that this will lead to efficiency gains without infrastructure upgrades.

The Queensland Government will also investigate the feasibility of recording port and supply chain performance metrics. These metrics will then be used in port planning, monitoring and management activities.

Conclusion

The Queensland Government will establish a committee to oversee the implementation of the Strategy. It is expected that many of the key actions will be implemented in 2014-15.

The new ports legislation is also expected to be introduced in the Queensland Parliament by the end of 2014.

The full Queensland Ports Strategy can be found here.

Raghav Gupta