Digging into development possibilities at port
A proposed renewable energy farm could put some wind in Bundaberg Port's development sails but with an election nearing development, or lack thereof, at the region's port is emerging as a point of contention.
Burnett MP Stephen Bennett aired his frustration this week over the dearth of projects coming to fruition when Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey toured the Bundaberg port and the $5.3m road project set to be completed soon.
The Buss and Newman St upgrade will allow heavy vehicles easier access into the port.
"This is an important productivity commitment to the port," Mr Bailey said.
"When I came out to the port in 2015 as the new minister all I saw was pretty much grass around the big sugar terminal and a few of the old terminal tanks.
"Since then we've seen so much go on: Knauf plasterboard factory going very strong and we're seeing now the wood pellet business, we're seeing this new road commitment and of course with Pacific Tug their marine base here is evolving, there's commitments being made and signed late last year.
"What we want to see is this port to continue to develop because that means jobs for the Bundaberg region."
Mr Bailey said the new wind farm proposal at Maryborough had the potential to bring in the largest wind blades and turbines in the world and there could be an opportunity for that technology to come through the local port.
Pacific Tug Group CEO Chris Peters said the company was excited about the opportunities in Bundaberg.
"We see great growth opportunities, we see Bundaberg as becoming more of a central part of the port network in Queensland."
He said the Bundaberg site would be a great integration of the local area to the Blue Highway.
The applications for stage 1 of the initial development are "all through".
"Stage 1 was focused around a ship repair facility, so the new Stage 1a development is an expansion of the horizons of the site to incorporate cargo and project vessels to come alongside.
"It's an expansion of the shore-front and a higher development along that shore-front opportunity.
"The timeline's become somewhat compressed, so we're going for the Stage 1a option, now we're going back and doing a little bit further engineering works and some more costing of those.
"We just need to remould some of the environmental applications, just an expansion, not really a major material change."
Once that is completed he said the should be in a better place to start operations early next year to get infrastructure in place.
Mr Peters said the Burnett River offered "great" waterfront and sea access, what they needed to do was the interface between the river and the shore.
He said majority of the work would focus on shore-front stabilisation, some deepening works and building a berth facility.
The Bundaberg operation would see management of the transhipment terminal and harbour towing.
He said the terminal would be built on site to accommodate vessels coming in, storing equipment and cargo.
Mr Peters said site was 40,000m and surrounded by an "extensive parcel" of Gladstone Ports Corporation land that could be extended for projects.
He said the land available in Bundaberg was more than what most ports could offer.
Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett said there were high hopes the Pacific Tug facility would be a "significant driver" and potential catalyst for further developments once it gets underway.
However, given the time had taken for the development to get to this stage, he was thankful they hadn't left.
"We just hope that we get a structure where other companies don't have to go through the hell of getting approval that has taken Pacific Tug five years to get there approvals through," he said.
Mr Bennett described the State Development Area at the port as "smokescreen" which hadn't delivered anything tangible in five years.
"They keep taking about a State Development Area in one hand, but typical to form of any bureaucracy run by state Labor Government it doesn't allow on the other hand for anything to progress," he said.
Mr Bennett would like to see other marine industries and agricultural value-adding facilities at the port.
"We've got vast areas of land down there that is under-utilised …"
He said the leasing of land was stifling growth and while not all companies want freehold land it should be made available to those that do "like we did with Knauf".
Mr Bennett said the Knauf facility was the last significant development at the port, which was completed in 2017.
Rather than having a "fluff tour" of the port, "reannouncing federal government policy with no money to back it up" and discussing the bike trail to Gin Gin, Mr Bennett said the minister could have been discussing a bike trail to Bargara and road upgrade aspirations across the region.
Mr Bailey said they had future plan for the port and to "watch this space".
He said they were committed to the State Development Area with plans to keep it in public hands and develop it.
"We're seeing new industry, we're seeing new infrastructure, that's something we didn't see when the LNP were in power," he said.
"Their priority was to sell off ports and we stopped that happening.
"We all know that LNP will promise the world but when they get in, they'll cut, they'll sack and they'll sell."
He said they were opening to any firm proposals that were viable and created jobs.
"We will work with ant agencies that are keen to develop things here," he said.
"If we can get the big wind farm at Maryborough going and get these massive blades and turbines coming into Bundaberg Port that will be quite a sight to see and there'll be a lot of workers needed to do that.
"That's something we're working with Pacific Tugs and the proponent with."
Labor candidate for Bundaberg Tom Smith said it was the Palaszczuk Government which was investing in infrastructure in the region and bringing jobs to Bundaberg.