Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing and Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher with Gladstone Ports Corporation Acting CEO Craig Walker.
Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing and Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher with Gladstone Ports Corporation Acting CEO Craig Walker.

Ports Corp denies ‘shelving’ major industry report

GLADSTONE Ports Corporation has denied claims it “shelved” a report which contained recommendations that, if implemented, would have provided a massive opportunity for Gladstone and Central Queensland businesses to earn millions through the export of freight.

The $60,000 government and industry report details massive amounts of Central Highlands export freight from Moura, Emerald, Clermont and Biloela, if relatively minor upgrades to the Dawson Highway were quickly funded.

According to the report, local businesses stood to make $1500 to $2500 per export container if the report’s recommendations were implemented, which would subsequently increase container freight at Gladstone’s port, generate income for the city, and keep local products internationally competitive.

Instead, this freight is being sent through the Port of Brisbane, costing local businesses vital income.

The Gladstone Ports Corporation is a government-owned corporation.

The report was a huge step towards installing a container telehandler on Gladstone Ports Corporation property, opening up the port as a container terminal.

The report was produced by a “working party” made up of Gladstone Ports Corporation business development manager, Andrew Davis, Gladstone Regional Councillor Peter Masters, Emerald Agriculture Department manager Lisa Dunbar, Central Highlands Development Corporation’s Liz Alexander, as well as Employment, Economic Development and Innovation Department’s Colin McDonald, and State Development Tourism and Innovation Department’s Jeremy Hastings.

The 65-page report titled Trade Access to Gladstone Port: Central Western Heavy Vehicle Road Access Biloela to Gladstone Port Route stated a heavy transport route to the Gladstone Port was desirable due to its economic impacts.

“An efficient heavy vehicle road transport link to Port of Gladstone is desirable for Central Queensland industry sectors given the potential freight cost savings that can be achieved, particularly for the cost sensitive primary industry sector,” the report states.

“Savings for freight customers using a PBS A-Double could be up to $900 per 40’ container each round trip to the Port of Gladstone and up to $1,400 per 40’ container for round trips to the Port of Gladstone instead of Brisbane.

“In addition, this would reduce the number of round-trip heavy vehicle movements on major routes from the Central Queensland Region to SEQ and the Port of Brisbane that will reduce both accidents and pavement wear and tear.

“Total transport task savings associated with exporting containers through the Port of Gladstone using PBS A-Double vehicles could yield road transport benefits and savings of $20 million per annum.

“This task would be delivered by undertaking only 20 trips per day (if operating 6 days per week) on the Dawson Highway.”

Ian Wilson, a transport and logistics consultant who authored the report with the working party, has said he doubted whether it had been passed on to the Transport Minister, or Gladstone MP Glenn Butcher, or the Director General of Transport.

Members of the working party have said Gladstone Ports Corporation shelved the report – claims that have been strenuously denied.

What followed was a $100 million announcement by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of Commonwealth funding for Stage 2 of an internal Port access road, which internal Port critics claim “is not required for at least 10 years”.

Gladstone Harbour taken by a DJI Mavic Air 2 drone.
Gladstone Harbour taken by a DJI Mavic Air 2 drone.

Critically, the report highlights not only potentially significant economic benefits for Gladstone, but for Moura, Emerald, Clermont and Biloela.

The report details every impediment, and offers solutions to all obstacles, to having road trains on the Dawson Highway.

While large and higher B-double trucks use the Dawson Highway daily, Transport Department guidelines prevent longer type 1 road trains carrying several containers, mining equipment or other large freight.

Calliope State School was also a huge concern documented in the report, working party members have revealed.

The report recommends a ring road to avoid the school, widening of sections of the Dawson Highway and upgrades to the Callide Creek and Collard Creek No. 3 bridges.

Members of the working party stated a daytime heavy truck curfew would instantly provide a free solution to any potential Calliope State School disaster.

Federal Member of Flynn Ken O’Dowd was involved in the initial formation of the working party but said he knew nothing about the report being “shelved”.

“I met with the past CEO of the Gladstone Port, Peter O’Sullivan, to get this working party and report started,” Mr O’Dowd told the Callide and Dawson Leader.

“There is $100m available for road upgrades to the Gladstone Port, which the Commonwealth is holding.”

Mr O’Dowd said he was shocked to hear the working party had spent a year on the report that was allegedly “canned” so quickly.

A GPC spokeswoman said in no way had the report “been shelved” – in fact the opposite.

“It has been widely shared with key infrastructure partners including the Department of State Development, Tourism and Innovation (DSDMIP), Queensland State Government, Central Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils (CQROC), and Regional Development Australia,” she said.

“The report informs a long-term, multifaceted approach, advising key decisions of GPC and key stakeholders to drive development at the Port and economic benefits for the region.

“The report is not public as it contains elements of sensitive commercial in confidence information.

“However, key outcomes of the report have been shared with working groups such as the Central Queensland Transport Working Group (CQTWG) comprising state, local, industry and GPC members.”

The spokeswoman said the report was already delivering benefits to CQ.

“A number of key outcomes identified in the report have led to funding and upgrades by responsible agencies to enhance the freight task to the Port of Gladstone.

“GPC also continues to work closely with Gladstone Regional Council (GRC) on the feasibility of raising the Goondoon Street Bridge.

“In March 2020, GPC presented to the Gladstone Regional Council to ensure key

stakeholders were informed and aligned on future development to increase port access.

“We have allocated $250,000 for the council-led study to look at options to increase bridge clearance from 5.1 metres to 7 metres.”

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