Exporters pay port price

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Losing out: The live export trade.
Camera IconLosing out: The live export trade. Credit: Supplied

WA agriculture is counting the cost of the State Government's failure to settle a dispute with building magnate Len Buckeridge over construction of a private port at James Point.

The live export industry regarded construction of the port as essential to its future while supporters of competition in the grains industry had high hopes for investment in new storage and ship loading infrastructure.

Former WA Livestock Exporters' Association chairman John Edwards said the collapse of Supreme Court mediation between the Government and Mr Buckeridge's James Point Pty Ltd was "disturbing and disappointing".

Mr Edwards said WALEA saw the port as a solution to growing constraints at Fremantle Port and community opposition to trucks carting livestock through the city.

"The James Point berth offered significant benefits for the relocation of loading livestock vessels away from Fremantle and would have married in very well with the large export quarantine depots for sheep and cattle at nearby Baldivis and Mundijong," he said in an email to JPPL chairman Chris Whitaker.

"We will now be made to live with ongoing congestion, poor road and port infrastructures, and delays in the Fremantle Port - our biggest barriers to achieving even higher welfare standards and shipping success rates for livestock."

WALEA has lobbied Premier Colin Barnett to support the development for years and cites Liberal Party policy documents dating back to 2007 stating: "A future Liberal Government will honour the (JPPL) agreement."

The private port near Cockburn was earmarked for a major grain terminal.

Mr Whitaker told _WestBusiness in March that JPPL had a short-list of four of the biggest names in the industry after calling for expressions of interest in a grain terminal.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association grains committee president John Snooke said the James Point decision was a setback for growers who wanted more competition in the supply chain.

"We have no doubt in time we will learn about more competition in the Kwinana zone irrespective of this project being put on the backburner," Mr Snooke.

"There is too much genuine interest from multinationals in our grains industry and its export surplus year-in, year-out."

Mr Buckeridge is suing the Government for costs and lost profits of about $1.2 billion over a 2000 deal to develop the port.

The Government tried to sell Mr Buckeridge the Kwinana Bulk Terminal, which remains on the market, in a bid to settle the case. JPPL abandoned talks last week, blaming the Government for unacceptable delays.

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