Mega-port plan threatens islands

PARTS of Harwood Island, Palmers Island and Goodwood Island would be consumed if a plan to turn the Port of Yamba into an international freight hub ever goes ahead.

Australian Infrastructure Developments Pty Ltd and its founder Des Euen are promoting the multi-billion dollar plan to link a Yamba port development to a proposed rail line over the Great Dividing Range to Moree.

It is the latest attempt by Mr Euen to push the plan that has in recent years been called "pie in the sky" by local politicians such as Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson and State MP Chris Gulaptis.

Des Euen, the man pushing the dramatic redevelopment of the Port of Yamba, explains his vision at the forum held at Casino.
Des Euen, the man pushing the dramatic redevelopment of the Port of Yamba, explains his vision at the forum held at Casino. David Moase

The overall budget for AID's projects is $52billion, which Mr Euen says will be funded by overseas investors from Singapore, the United Kingdom and China.

The port project is estimated to cost $12billion and the railway $11.5billion. The area covered by the port project stretches from just east of the Harwood bridge towards Iluka.

At a forum held at Casino, Mr Euen was asked by Grafton resident Lynette Eggins what was planned for local communities if the "villages of Harwood Island, parts of Palmers Island and Goodwood Island, plus three caravan parks and two schools will either be annihilated or severely impacted by this plan".

Mr Euen said he would be guided by the outcome of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that is yet to be conducted.

"As with every project that takes Australia through progress, acquisitions happen," he said.

"Now those acquisitions pay fair market value for the land or for the infrastructure that's already on there, and that is the case here too.

"Now it won't take every inch of the land where it is but when you look at the overall plan, the EIS studies not only look at the hydrology aspects of the river or the Clarence River mouth, it will look at the whole structure of the AID plan over land-based land swaps.

"Until we get to the stage of doing the EIS and as the EIS commences and the community is involved in a very transparent way in the EIS studies, and involvement with it we can certainly sit down and say we need this, we need that and we're paying fair market value or whatever the case may.

"We're not at that stage yet. It's up to the EIS to prove that what we have planned can work and can happen.

"When we get to there, the community will be involved. The community has to be involved."

Mr Euen told the meeting he expected approval from the State Government to go-ahead with the EIS in "about eight weeks".

However, a spokeswoman for Planning and Environment NSW, the department that would have to approve the EIS, said the proposal was not in front of it and they didn't know anything about it.

A spokesperson for the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, Duncan Gay, said there was no current consideration of the project, adding that in 2014 an "assessment was carried out and the proposal did not proceed any further".

In response to a question from Cr Karen Toms, Mr Euen said AID was "talking to the government about privatising the port".



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