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World’s largest coal export port Newcastle has ‘urgent need’ to diversify

The new chairman of the world’s biggest coal export port, Newcastle, says there is an “urgent need” for the business and the broader Hunter region to begin diversifying from a reliance on coal.

Professor Roy Green, a former chair of the the federal government’s Innovative Regions Centre, has been appointed chairman of the Port of Newcastle Board by owners the Infrastructure Fund and China Merchants Group.

He immediately flagged the significance of a likely fall in the global reliance on coal.

“Coal has been at the heart of the Hunter’s economy for the better part of two centuries, and it will continue to be central to the prosperity of the region and Port of Newcastle for some time to come,” Professor Green said. “However, there is also an urgent need to diversify the Hunter economy and the port’s business.

“Clearly the long-term outlook for coal is a threat to the port and Hunter region, but it is also a huge opportunity. While the world’s demand for our coal is beyond our control, our ability to invest in new sources of growth and innovation is not. Among our challenges will be ensuring a level playing field for the development of a viable and competitive container terminal.”

In November, the NSW government and the port board announced a $13 million cruise terminal upgrade for Newcastle to attract more cruise liners.

“Port of Newcastle has already started diversifying, through investments in a new cruise terminal and non-coal freight facilities,” Professor Green said, “but we must build significantly on this platform and create world-class port facilities that are able to meet the needs of a rapidly changing Hunter and NSW economy.”

He said the port authority was obliged to think “long term”.

“Most people in the Hunter understand that the fortunes of the Port of Newcastle and the Hunter economy are inextricably linked, as it is impossible to have a thriving port without a thriving regional economy. Anything that is good for the Hunter economy is good for the Port of Newcastle.”

Newcastle has been a commercial shipping port for more than 200 years and handles more than 2250 ship movements a year.

It is a significant land holder with nearly 800 hectares – 200 hectares of vacant port side land are available for development.

Professor Green has worked in universities, business and government in Australia and overseas, including most recently as dean of the UTS Business School at the University of Technology Sydney.

Professor Green previously chaired the CSIRO Manufacturing Sector Advisory Council and NSW Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council, and he is currently chair of the Queensland Competition Authority.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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