Buckeridge port deal collapses

Brad Thompson and Gareth ParkerThe West Australian
Len Buckeridge.
Camera IconLen Buckeridge. Credit: The West Australian

The State Government is bracing for a billion-dollar legal battle with building magnate Len Buckeridge after Supreme Court mediation to settle a dispute over construction of a private port at James Point collapsed.

The Government had tried to sell Mr Buckeridge the Kwinana Bulk Terminal as part of a settlement but his James Point Pty Ltd company abandoned negotiations, blaming the Government for unacceptable delays.

Mr Buckeridge is suing the Government for costs and lost profits of about $1.2 billion over a deal signed with the Government 13 years ago tomorrow.

James Point Pty Ltd chairman Chris Whitaker told industry stakeholders yesterday that all work on the port proposal would cease immediately.

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JPPL and Mr Buckeridge's lawyer Michael Hotchkin fired a broadside at the Government for taking too long to negotiate a settlement.

Mr Hotchkin said the Government had been unable to give JPPL access to the financial records for the Kwinana terminal before mediation began this month.

"The parties were too far apart, and the delays we experienced at the hands of the State and the reasons for the delays were so significant that we decided that it was just too risky to proceed," he said.

"It just didn't stack up. It wasn't financially viable because we couldn't be confident we could do things because the involvement of the State was required and their performance was so bad to date that we just couldn't take the risk any more.

"We told them in April that we really needed to be pretty confident by the end of the financial year that we had a deal.

"Their experts didn't even start (financial) modelling until about August or September.

"We'd been promised access to the information we needed to assess the true value of KBT in May. By December, when the mediation took place, we still didn't have that access and in fact we had no information at all."

Transport Minister Troy Buswell said the Government would put the KBT on the open market as part of its assets sales program.

He confirmed JPPL had told the Government it was not interested in buying the facilities.

Mr Buckeridge, whose health is faltering, lodged his Supreme Court writ in November last year. A framework agreement to build the bulk commodity, livestock export berth and second-stage offshore container port in Cockburn Sound was signed in the last days of the Court Government.

The deal was never finalised and the Government refused to sell Mr Buckeridge the land.

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