New Narngulu site for CBH

Jenne Brammer and Brad ThompsonCountryman

CBH plans to build a new site in the Narngulu area, 12km south-east of Geraldton as part of its $750 million network optimisation strategy.

The Narngulu operation is listed in CBH’s 100 bins of the future site, along with nearby existing site Moonyonooka.

Although CBH representatives were not available for comment, it is understood the Narngulu development aims to take pressure off the Moonyoonooka site, which is increasingly surrounded by residential housing.

The new Narngulu site could also house CBH’s new fertiliser depot for the Geraldton region.

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At the other extreme of CBH’s zones, CBH’s new Mirambeena site, on the outskirts of Albany, is progressing and will be finalised in time for the 2016 harvest.

CBH general manager of operations David Capper said the $28 million development on Down Road would improve services to growers and customers in the Albany zone.

“CBH’s decision to develop the new site was prompted by the significant growth in grain production in the Great Southern region in recent years; a trend that is expected to continue,” he said.

The Mirambeena project is part of the CBH Group’s network strategy.

“The network plan focuses on significant capital and maintenance expenditure over the next five years, which includes important strategic improvements including Mirambeena,” Mr Capper said.

“The network strategy also includes site consolidation that will deliver a low cost, efficient grain supply chain and increased tonnes to port when our exporters need it.”

Meanwhile, CBH remains open to the idea of a user-pays funding model for country roads as it prepares to cut its grain receival network from 202 to 100 sites.

The Metro Grain Centre in Forrestfield, which received about 180,000 tonnes of grain last harvest, is not part of the network strategy. However, it will continue to supply the adjoining Joe White Malting plant and customers in the container export trade.

Mr Capper said the move to close 102 sites would have an impact on roads but not on the scale some shires expected.

“The impact of that is there will be approximately an additional 400,000 tonnes of grain on the country road network travelling about an additional 15km a year, ” he said.

“One of the things we have been very cognisant of is the impact we have on the country road network and have worked (to try) to minimise that.

“There is an impact but it’s not anything like what people might have thought it was going to be when they heard 102 sites were being phased out over 10 years.”

CBH and its 4145 growers cart millions of tonnes a year by road and on the Brookfield-controlled rail freight network.

Mr Capper said road funding was a major issue for Wheatbelt shires. He said a user-pays funding model might be part of the solution, but it had to be applied fairly and to all road users.

“If the current system isn’t working, there may be a need for a different one. If it was fair and consistently applied to all road users, we could be OK with that, ” Mr Capper said.

CBH gave in-principle support for a user-pays model last year when it backed a review of road funding to ease the burden on ratepayers.

The WA Local Government Association believes CBH should have consulted it about the site closures much earlier.

CBH has been providing information on its $750 million network strategy at growers meetings over recent weeks. It is scheduling meetings with shires and Main Roads after these.

Meanwhile, the Economic Regulation Authority has appointed an arbitrator in the bitter dispute between CBH and Brookfield over a long-term rail access deal. Kevin Lindgren will hear and determine the dispute as CBH breaks new ground under the Rail (Access) Code.

An interim access deal expires on December 31.

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