Maritime Union calls on NSW government to fast-track Newcastle gas terminal dredging to save Stockton beach

Article Image
OPPORTUNITY: Newcastle port dredging for a gas terminal could provide sand for Stockton beach.

Posted October 1, 2019

THE Berejiklian government has a "rare" opportunity to access enough sand to save Stockton beach if it capitalises on its decision to fast-track the development of a gas import terminal at Kooragang Island, according to the Maritime Union of Australia.

Last month, NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes declared the $589 million gas terminal, that will require significant dredging, critical state significant infrastructure.

MUA Newcastle branch secretary Glen Williams said the Hunter River sand, that would naturally have joined Stockton beach before the port was built, offered a fast and cost-effective solution to address the erosion crisis.

Newcastle GasDock Company, a subsidiary of Energy Projects and Infrastructure Korea (EPIK), plans to build the terminal at the site of the scrapped T4 terminal in the Hunter River's South Channel, between the Kooragang coal terminal and the Tourle Street bridge.

It's understood the South Channel would require significant dredging to allow ships to operate that far upriver.

The project would include a 170,000-cubic metre floating storage and regasification unit and onshore infrastructure.

The gas import terminal could be operational in Newcastle in four years, but Mr Williams said there was an opportunity to do the dredging sooner.

"As part of the gas terminal development, extensive dredging of river sand will be undertaken, providing the raw material that could be used to save Stockton from this growing erosion crisis," he said.

"We are reliably informed that the sand that needs to be dredged for this project was previously tested as part of the T4 planning process, with experts finding large reserves of uncontaminated sand that could be used to safely restock the beach."

The Newcastle Herald reported on Thursday that in 2011 more than one million cubic metres of clean sand was dredged from the south arm of the Hunter River, that could have helped restore Stockton beach, but it was dumped offshore.

Johnny Madsen, of RN Dredging, said he made enquiries about dumping the sand off Stockton beach, but was told there was too much red tape involved and it would take two years to get permission.

Stockton Surf Life Saving Club president Callan Nickerson described the missed opportunity as "heartbreaking".

Mr Williams urged the government not to miss another opportunity to get medium to high grade river sand, that is considered excellent quality, to renourish the beach.

"It is very rare to have so much previous planning and assessment work undertaken, and the NSW government should take advantage of those resources to fast-track the current planning process," he said.

"An ideal solution would be to separate the dredging work from the remainder of the planning process, allowing the port expansion and beach restoration to occur urgently, with the remaining issues resolved separately.

"This is a perfect solution that delivers for the local community and taxpayers, and all that is needed is the political will to make it happen."

EPIK and Port of Newcastle signed an option agreement late last year to start preliminary works on a terminal.

The government said the Newcastle terminal would be subject to "detailed community consultation", despite its designation as critical infrastructure, and the proponent would need to prepare an environmental impact statement to go on public exhibition.

DPIE will assess the merits of the project before making a recommendation to Mr Stokes for a final decision.