twenty-two years on oakajee is still not built

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    Twenty-two years on Oakajee is still not built
    2012 is the twenty-second anniversary of State Development Minister Ian Taylor’s visionary announcement that Western Australia urgently needed another major heavy industrial site and deep-water port to be located at Oakajee, north of Geraldton.

    Many years on, with millions of taxpayers’ dollars spent, the much-needed port remains much needed.

    Oakajee is needed, but not built. Last week’s announcements probably mean it never will be built.

    Successive governments have told us that this port is vitally important to the further development of the vast mid west mineral and agricultural industries that cannot be further expanded unless they can access a viable deep-water port.
    The existing mid-western port at Geraldton has been hampered for years by a lack of deep-water and its restrictive channels but any proposals to expand or develop it meet with justifiable opposition from the residents of the adjacent suburbs.

    So Oakajee makes good sense for WA.

    However, as we compete with other nations who export into the same markets as us, we would be wise to note their performances. A decade after our Government made its decision at Oakajee, Brazil came to a similar conclusion that they also needed a port through which they could export to China and Japan.

    In the ensuing ten years, Brazil has not only planned their port, they have built it. 200 kilometres north of Rio de Janeiro is the ninety square kilometres of private super port called Açu. This super port contains a couple of steel mills, and, in even worse news for us; it can accommodate the gigantic (400,000 tonne) Chinamax ships. In one fell swoop Açu wipes out our existing freight advantage to Asia and makes high grade Brazilian Iron Ore available in our markets at fiercely competitive prices.
    As it was not a well-kept secret, the development of Açu should have provided the incentive for our Government to act quickly, however our mob just couldn’t do it. They have held meetings, changed ownership structures, spent millions, fiddled at the edges but achieved little.

    Oakajee is the piece of strategic infrastructure that is probably the best example of all time of why Governments should just make the rules and then get out of the way and allow people who know what they are doing to build stuff.

    Our Governments will tell us how difficult these things are – but the international experience is the exact opposite. All around the world, these things happen regularly, and they seem to be able to do it without the years of red tape and bungling that our Governments continually produce.

    The end result is that our State Government has taken longer to not build one port than the iron ore industry took to actually build all the ports, roads, mines, towns and associated infrastructure of the Pilbara. One can only assume that if the Government had the same level of control of the development of the Pilbara we would now only be a year or two away from beginning to export iron ore.

    Larry Graham can be heard on the Friday Free For All on Paul Murray’s Morning Program at 11 o’clock each Friday morning on 882 6PR

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