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National Ports Strategy and planning


On 7 January 2011, the Government released its new National Ports Strategy. The strategy proposes to clear freight bottlenecks and ensure urban development does not stall the ability to expand port facilities, through the implementation of planning buffer zones around ports along with streamlined environmental approval processes.

Infrastructure Australia and the National Transport Commission released a draft of a Proposed National Ports Strategy on 6 May 2010. The work was undertaken in response to a 2009 directive from the then Prime Minister to provide a strategy for consideration by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

Next month's meeting of COAG will study the strategy’s 42 proposals, which include a requirement for 15 to 30 year master plans from port operators and benchmarking against global ports. The plans would require state and local planning authorities to develop buffer zones to prevent developments from using land that could be needed for future port expansion or transport corridor linkages.

The strategy notes that “Ports are currently planned by state and territory jurisdictions with the involvement of the Commonwealth and local governments, where appropriate.” It proposes “three integrated levels of planning around relevant ports; jurisdictions, regions and precincts.”

The strategy is light on any clear plans to expand port capacity and the lack of detail was noted by some critics who have broadly welcomed Federal involvement in port planning. In December, the Parliamentary Library produced a Background Note: Of the plan: Commonwealth city planning systems, that sets out the backdrop against which Federal involvement in Australian urban planning might be facilitated.

The strategy is said to provide a new foundation for higher productivity and faster economic growth across Australia by improving the design, planning and performance of our ports. Later this month the National Freight Strategy is due out.