EP port debate enters new phase

EP port debate enters new phase

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The development of new port projects on the Eyre Peninsula has been a hot topic for many years, with growers wanting alternative options to Viterra's facilities at Port Lincoln and Thevenard to increase competition. Soon, they could be spoilt for choice.

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The development of new port projects on the Eyre Peninsula has been a hot topic for many years, with growers wanting alternative options to Viterra's facilities at Port Lincoln and Thevenard to increase competition.

Soon, they could be spoilt for choice, with T-Ports' Lucky Bay facility up and running and work on Free Eyre's Port Spencer project potentially starting this month. Development of a multi-commodity port at Cape Hardy looks further off, but has been given a $25-million kick-start in the form of seed funding from the federal government.

The elephant in the room is the close proximity between Port Spencer and Cape Hardy, with only about 10 kilometres separating the two.

At a meeting of graingrowers held at Cummins in March, the message from attendees was clear - it was only viable to have one new port, not two.

If this is the case, which one would go ahead, should growers have their way?

Reports from the Cummins meeting indicated the majority of farmers in attendance backed the concept of a multi-commodity port at Cape Hardy, while this project also reportedly has the support of the local regional development and local government associations.

Following the March meeting, Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone said he would recommend that Grain Producers SA conducted a wider vote of all EP graingrowers to gauge the level of support behind both port projects, but GPSA believes no such vote is needed.

Related reading: Free Eyre port venture will continue: Crosby

It's incredibly difficult to accurately measure which port has the backing of more graingrowers.

But the reality is, with commercial projects like these, it probably doesn't matter.

Assuming Free Eyre can get sufficient investment and final approvals from the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure, the project will move forward - with or without community support.

If only one additional port is viable, does that mean Port Spencer will succeed on a first-in, best-dressed basis? Or will Cape Hardy also be constructed, given the strong local support base it appears to have?

If both ports are built, will there be enough grain to serve both, or will each render the other unviable?

In the long run, only time will tell whether EP growers are best served by one port, both ports, or another option altogether.

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