THE LOWER house of the New South Wales Parliament on Tuesday passed the Port of Newcastle (Extinguishment of Liability) Bill 2022, meaning a container terminal at Newcastle is a step closer to becoming a reality.

Independent MP Greg Piper (member for Lake Macquarie) introduced the bill in mid-October. The stated aim of the bill is to “extinguish certain liabilities of the operator of the Port of Newcastle relating to an agreement between the state and the operator of Port Botany and Port Kembla”.

In effect, the bill intends to undo a deal made in 2013 which capped the number of containers Port of Newcastle could handle before having to pay a fee on every unit exceeding the limit, which would be collected by the state government and paid to NSW Ports as compensation.

The NSW government supports the bill with an amendment that would require the Port of Newcastle to pay a sum to the state, and the state would then be “required to pay an amount to an operating entity associated with another port”, according to the text of the amendment.

Under the amended bill, the Port of Newcastle would be required to pay the difference between the original cost of the lease and the cost of the lease if it was sold without the financial penalty on container throughput above a certain amount.

The Treasurer would request an independent assessment of what the port lease would have cost without the penalty – but this would be triggered by a letter from Port of Newcastle requesting a review.

Port of Newcastle CEO Craig Carmody said today’s vote marks a significant and positive step not just for the growth and diversification of the Port of Newcastle, but for NSW.

“The beneficiaries of this bill stretch far beyond the port,” he said.

“The benefits flow across regional and rural NSW, where manufacturers, agri-business and all industries across the ports supply chain will be breathing a collective sigh of relief.”

Mr Carmody thanked Mr Piper, saying he “recognised and drove the need for change and has shown outstanding leadership. This bill saw all sides of NSW politics seeking a resolution, knowing the status quo could not continue,” he said.

“While we celebrate this moment, we also recognise that a bill is not law until it passes through the upper house. Once a law, the Treasurer can expect without delay, a request for determination of compensation, as required by the bill.

“Port of Newcastle intends to waste no time in making good on its commitment to the people of the Hunter, Western and Northern NSW of constructing a container terminal,” Mr Carmody said.

Mr Piper in a speech in Parliament on Tuesday said the bill “is not about the Port of Newcastle, it’s about the people of New South Wales and the opportunities we want bring to the people of New South Wales”.