PORT of Newcastle has paid the one-off compensation payment determined by IPART last month. The port is no longer liable to reimburse the state of NSW if it grows its container trade.

IPART – the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal – determined last month that Port of Newcastle would need to pay $13.1 million to end the legislative process that required the port to reimburse the state if its container trade exceeded a certain level.

The Port of Newcastle board voted in favour of paying the one-off payment immediately on receipt of the invoice from NSW Treasury, the port said on Monday (13 May).

Port of Newcastle has announced that, as of 30 April 2024, the reimbursement provisions in the Port of Newcastle Port Commitment Deed no longer exist.

This means the port is no longer required to reimburse the state for compensation payments owed to NSW Ports if Newcastle’s container trade exceeds a specified limit.

Port of Newcastle CEO Craig Carmody said with the legislative process now complete, the port is turning its attention to the NSW Freight Reform Program.

The payment means the port is a step closer to realising its vision for a deepwater container terminal, but the NSW Freight & Ports Policy, described by the port as “deliberately unfair”, remains a “regulatory obstacle” to making meaningful progression on the terminal.

Planning approvals, investment and construction can then go ahead once the final “obstacle” is removed, Mr Carmody said.

“Transport for NSW recently released the Freight Policy Reform Consultation Paper, which states a guiding principle is that competition must be encouraged and well balanced,” he said.

“That is all Port of Newcastle has ever asked for, the opportunity to compete and this policy reform must ensure a level playing field and stop trying to pick private company winners.”

Port of Newcastle chair Roy Green said the board’s pursuit of this outcome is a result of market demand.

“Agreement to pay the determination was met without hesitation,” Professor Green said.

“Since Port of Newcastle was privatised in 2014, it became apparent the market in the Port’s catchment did not want their own trade restricted, they wanted their product exported in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

“This was highlighted in the support we received during the legislative process, the Port of Newcastle Extinguishment of Liability Act became less about the Port of Newcastle and more about a collective group of organisations demanding change.

“While we eagerly await the outcome of the Freight Reform Program, Port of Newcastle will continue its planning for a container terminal, including continuing to grow container trade through the port’s Multipurpose Terminal, which has current planning approval for 350,000 containers [TEU] a year,” he said.

Mr Carmody acknowledged the work of Member for Lake Macquarie Greg Piper and others who called for change.  

“It truly was a movement beyond one organisation that has led to this moment,” he said.