STATEMENT FROM NICK DAMETTO MP – PORT HINCHINBROOK
31 March 2023
The Cardwell Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a chamber meeting whereby the Cassowary Coast Regional Council (CCRC) presented an update to the business community on the progress of several local Cardwell and Port Hinchinbrook projects. I must praise the Cardwell Chamber of Commerce for their efforts organising the meeting and for the CCRC for their involvement.
I was unable to attend the meeting personally due to being in Brisbane for parliament however I have been thoroughly informed of what took place. Being a Chamber event, not all residents of Cardwell were aware of the meeting or had the opportunity to attend. I am of the view that the valuable information shared at the meeting must also be provided to the wider community who deserve to be kept up to date with accurate information as well.
SEWERAGE TREATMENT PLANT
Scheduled construction start date: Late May 2023
On 29 September 2022, Council invited public tenders for the replacement of the Port Hinchinbrook Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP). Two tenders were received for the construction of the project however both were deemed unsuitable to proceed to contract stage due to compliance, qualitative and pricing irregularities.
The process of market sounding was undertaken in January and February 2023 with ‘Local Buy’ prequalified suppliers.
A number of contractors were engaged through that process with one ‘Local Buy’ supplier and one unsolicited ‘Non Local Buy’ supplier being identified. The two identified contractors were:
- Pensar Water Pty Ltd; and
- Haslin Constructions Pty Ltd.
At a General Council Meeting on 23 March 2023, Council adopted a recommendation to prepare a Tender Consideration Plan for the STP project. A recommended plan has been developed and during a Special Meeting on Friday, 31 March 2023 the CCRC unanimously passed the Tender Consideration Plan for the procurement of the Port Hinchinbrook Sewerage Treatment Plant. In other words, the two contractors listed above will be invited to submit to the CCRC for the STP project.
This additional tender process is anticipated to close in late April 2023 at which time the tenders will be subject to evaluation by the CCRC.
EMERGENCY DREDGING OF ONE MILE CREEK
The Federal Funding Agreement for the dredging of Port Hinchinbrook, One Mile Creek Channel was executed on 5 April 2022.
The CCRC, as the recipient of public funds from the Australia Government, are bound by a Deed of Agreement with the Federal Government in relation to the dredging of Port Hinchinbrook. The Deed of Agreement contains the specific activities to be undertaken with respect to the dredging which must be complied with, including permission to access necessary areas, dredging permits, operational works and the availability and use of the existing environmental authority (EA). The EA has been, and remains, in the name and possession of the Port Hinchinbrook liquidator.
Negotiations commenced between the CCRC and the liquidator to reach an agreement whereby the CCRC would be permitted access to all that was necessary from the liquidator to dredge One Mile Creek including the EA and dredging permits and the authority to dispose of the dredge spoil on Lot 170, Port Hinchinbrook. The parties endeavoured to formalise their agreement by way of the Port Hinchinbrook Emergency Dredging Agreement.
In November 2022, it was announced that the CCRC and the liquidator were in the final stages of negotiations and a fully executed Port Hinchinbrook Dredging Agreement was imminent.
Unfortunately, final negotiations failed to result in an agreement being reached and on 10 March 2023, the liquidator declined to provide the EA and permits and revoked all prior authority to access property owned by the liquidator, including Lot 170.
As a result, the CCRC was faced with the following challenges:
- To find an alternative to Lot 170 for disposal of the dredge spoil; and
- How to obtain the necessary EAs and other permits for the dredging to be undertaken.
Where to from here?
- Alternatives to Lot 170 for disposal of the dredge spoil
The CCRC has identified several locations that may be considered suitable for the location of the dredge spoil. Soil testing is being undertaken on the mud to assess and determine what it contains. The results of those tests should be known by approximately mid-April 2023.
Once it is confirmed what the mud contains, the CCRC can proceed to investigate which of the potential locations would be a suitable and environmentally viable location for the dumping of the dredge spoil.
A list of the potential locations for dumping of the dredge spoil is as follows:
- Lot 170 (Existing disposal location) Currently unavailable and unlikely to become available.
- Council Reserve – Gravel Pit
- Council Reserve – Gregory Street North
- Private Property – Quarry on Attie Creek Road
- Cardwell Transfer Station
- Tully Waste Facility
- Private Property – Unidentified
- Foreshore – Unidentified
- Nearshore – Unidentified
- Offshore – Unidentified
- Obtaining the necessary EAs and permits.
Due to the existing EAs held by the liquidator no longer being accessible, the CCRC intends to apply to the Department of Environment and Science (DES) for their own EAs and permits. There are many procedural requirements that must be undertaken to satisfy the requirements of an application to DES for EAs and the location of the dredge spoil is one of the most essential factors that must be confirmed.
I am informed that the CCRC is aiming to have the application to DES submitted before November 2023 but that date will be subject to change. It could be sooner or it could take longer, it is difficult to accurately predict when there are so many variables at play.
Potential sale of marina and freehold land
Potential buyer, Consolidated Properties, is still in discussions with the liquidator regarding the potential sale of the Marina freehold land in liquidation. It is essential that the STP and dredging projects are undertaken in a strictly compliant manner so that not only the environmental and legal obligations of the CCRC are satisfied, but so that Port Hinchinbrook remains viable and commercially attractive to potential purchasers.
I can appreciate how gruelling this ongoing process has been for residents and business owners who are negatively impacted by the current state of Port Hinchinbrook. Emotions and frustrations are understandably high. However, it is not the time to be laying blame on any party for their actions or making things more difficult for the CCRC who are using their best efforts to progress forward with the STP and dredging projects despite the circumstances. The CCRC will play a big role in the next 12 months to two years with Port Hinchinbrook and if we all work as one, the community, the CCRC and the State Government, we will navigate through these final hurdles.
I am kept fully briefed by the CCRC on an ongoing basis and I am always available to assist them at any time. I have had direct conversations with the Deputy Premier about Port Hinchinbrook and I am pleased to say that there are no challenges foreshadowed from the State Government about the projects and the intended course to be taken by the CCRC. I must commend both the State Government and the CCRC who have created a strong working relationship which will be imperative to getting through the EA process as quickly as possible.
Port Hinchinbrook must be revitalised and regenerated back to the premium residential and tourist destination that it once was and I am committed to seeing this through. A further update will be provided once there is more known about the STP tender and the results of the soil testing for the dredging.
Nick Dametto MP
Member for Hinchinbrook