Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 November 1999
Parliamentary Record 20
Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Tuesday 23 November 1999 The financial advisors of both the AustralAsia Railway Corporation and the AsiaPacific Transport Consortium have confirmed that. The foundations supporting this project are strong. The contract documentation is being negotiated and completed as I speak, and financial close is targeted for April next year. Mr Speaker, as you know, the Northern Territoiy government has invested a great deal in this project. But what a deal we have: a $ 1200m project for a $165m investment. We have, of course, also built the East Arm Port, an important part of the railway strategy, but it also has wider benefits and uses. So why do this? Why spend so much on a Greenfield Project? There is a very simple answer. This project represents the future for the Northern Territory. A successful trans shipment operation between the railway and the port will ensure economic growth. But like any business, it will take time to show a profit. In the beginning - in 2003 - the railway will carry an estimated 1.2 million tones of domestic freight per annum. However, the overall goal for the railway is the development of a new and alternative trade route linking the Melbourne to Adelaide rail axis with key north Asian ports, including Pusan in Korea, Tokyo, Kao-hsiung in Taiwan and Hong Kong. We expect this landbridge trade to reach 50 000 containers within five years of operations, and increase to about 100 000 containers by the first 10 years of operations. This is significant for Darwin but modest on a national scale when considering the total Australian trade is around 2.5 million containers per annum. In essence we are looking to the development of a niche market - those high value and time- sensitive commodities such as chilled meat and other fresh food, and motor vehicle parts. As this trade grows, Stage 2 of the port will be progressively developed. A program and a timetable for this is being negotiated between the consortium and the government. At the completion of Stage 2, the port will have the capacity to handle 250 000 containers annually, or 10% of the current Australian total of 2.5 million. The construction phase of the project will have a huge impact in the Territory, particularly in Tennant Creek and Katherine. The AsiaPacific Transport Consortium has indicated that construction of the railway will proceed from both Katherine and Tennant Creek beginning in the dry season next year. The actual place of construction will change to take wet season activity into account. But Katherine and Tennant will be the two construction bases, and concrete sleeper and rail welding plants will be established in both towns. However, goods and services will be needed from all over the Territory and Alice Springs will become an important logistics and distribution centre for the construction bases. Tracklaying is scheduled to start in 2001 with tracklaying machines operating from the supply depots in both Katherine and Tennant Creek. Construction of items such as bridges will start early in order for them to be completed prior to the tracklaying. There will be six mobile construction camps in operation at any time, with a total of 16 actual camp locations. The idea is to keep travelling distance from camp to point of construction to a maximum of 50 km. This means the camps will be relocated approximately every 8 weeks. Thats the exciting scale of activity we are facing during the next three years. It is not hard to imagine what services will be needed, nor what this all means to the construction and transport sectors, as well as businesses that then service these sectors. Alice Springs will gain significant benefit from the project with the truck industry and associated businesses contracted to trans-ship construction material such as rail and cement from the railhead to the construction sites. Alice Springs will become the prime supply and distribution centre for materials during construction. Smaller towns along the Stuart Highway will also benefit as the construction crews pass by. There will be side benefits for industries, such as tourism, with the 1000 people working directly on the railway during the three-year construction phase needing recreation time and places to enjoy their downtime. Once it is completed, the impact on the Territory will be enormous. Quite simply, it will change the economic face of the Territory. As a 50-year project, business may not change overnight but sustained economic growth will bring with it considerable opportunities. So what can we expect in the first 5 to 10 years of operation? In the first place a completed railway will act as a stimulus for the agricultural and mining industries, and therefore provide significant benefits to the Territory. Of course there will be an impact on the road transport industry with railways ideal for moving large quantities of freight at low cost, and for moving other freight competitively over long distances. In the Territory we have relied for a long time on an efficient and competitive road transport industry to carry all our freight. Now the industry will need to adjust to a competitor on the long haul routes. However, road transport will still have the market for smaller freight amounts, and small haul 4739
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