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WA commits to contentious new freight port

Western Australia’s government is pressing ahead with contentious plans for a multibillion dollar new freight port, promising it will create thousands of jobs.

The government has endorsed a recommendation from the Westport taskforce to construct a land-backed port within the Kwinana industrial area by 2032.

It will choose between two options for transitioning from the existing Fremantle port – a $4.7 billion plan to shift all of the operations at once and a $4 billion alternative of sharing between the two facilities for about 15 years.

A decision will be made within the next four years after extensive planning and environmental assessments.

Premier Mark McGowan says Fremantle Port has served WA well but the surrounding network will soon be unable to cope, and providing the necessary road, rail and freight upgrades to keep it operating would cost about $8 billion.

“A number of bandaid solutions have been put forward which are too short-term focused and are uneconomical as we develop as a state,” he said.

“We need to think big.”

The government has committed $97 million to progress the environmental works, detailed design and final business case.

Mr McGowan last year revealed he had received death threats after the Maritime Union of Australia stepped up its protests against plans to wind down Fremantle Port, arguing a move towards automation would lead to job cuts.

The premier has said the new container port will remain publicly owned and operated and its vast size will create thousands of jobs.

He is promising “enormous” environmental consultation on potential impacts to Cockburn Sound.

“I understand some people won’t be happy with that but we have to make long-term decisions for the future,” he said.

Kwinana, south of Perth, is already home to a bulk freight port and a large industrial strip.

It’s hoped that by eventually winding down Fremantle Port, traffic pressures around the city and inner suburbs will be eased.

The taskforce has said the new Kwinana port will be able to accommodate larger, more efficient ships, providing a saving of about $100 per container.

Mr McGowan scrapped the previous Liberal government’s $1.9 billion Perth Freight Link project which would have cut through a large portion of the environmentally significant Beeliar wetlands on the way to Fremantle Harbour.

Opposition spokeswoman Libby Mettam said the government was wasting taxpayers’ money and a new port would not be needed for decades.

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