New port could see trains return from Casino to Murwillumbah

SUPPORTERS of the resurrection of a train service on the Casino to Murwillumbah rail corridor have an unlikely ally - the chief of a consortium planning to build a deepwater port at Yamba.

Des Euen, chief executive of Australian Infrastructure Developments, will be appearing at the Casino RSM club next Thursday for a full day forum on the project.

Mr Euen's company is behind an ambitious plan to transform Port Yamba into a major sea freight hub for Australia's east coast to overcome the increasing congestion plaguing the capital city ports.

The port would connect to the planned inland rail system from Brisbane to Melbourne via a new east-west rail link to Moree, via Grafton, Glen Innes and Inverell the company also hopes to construct.

Reopening the Casino-Murwillumbah rail line - as well as the long defunct branch to Ballina - would be a by-product.

Mr Euen has compared the scale of the project - costed at whopping $52 billion - to the Snowy River Scheme, describing it as "200 years forward looking".

"The Northern Rivers of NSW are going to do very well out of this," Mr Euen said.

"There's going to be a lot of relocation of light industry into the region, it will be a transport and distribution centre."

He said it didn't need government funding because it has the backing of offshore private equity firms in Singapore and the UK.

"That's got to be a win-win-win for Australian people as well as the government," he said.

"We have a private development which potentially is the biggest infrastructure development ever to happen in the transport and logistics industry in Australia, and it's debt free."

"This will be Australia's first green port utilising renewable energy to run the whole port."

But Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis has poured cold water on the idea, labelling it "unrealistic".

"There are absolutely no plans to increade the depth of the river to allow larger vessels to come into Yamba," Mr Gulaptis said.

"The maximum capacity you can get in and out of there is about 4000 tonnes... they're talking 80-100,000 tonnes."

"On that basis, it is a pie in the sky idea.

"There are so many environmental constraints -there is no will to do this.

"Business can talk about wants to do all it want, but unless it gets approval from government, it's never going to happen."

But Mr Euen labelled criticisms of the project as "tall poppy syndrome".

"Australia's go to realise that we're a very small population, we're at the back end of the world, and we need efficiency and productivity," he said.

He said the consortium had sought assistance from the consumer watchdog, the ACCC, about the NSW Government's policy to reserve Port Kembla and Port Botany as exclusive ports for sea freight.

He said if the ACCC upheld the current arrangement his company would take the matter to the High Court.



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