Claytons Community Consultation at Port Botany

From a classic Australian advertisement in the 1970s featuring Jack Thompson.

Barman: What’ll you have? Jack: Claytons, thanks, Brian. Bloke in bar: On the wagon, Jack? Jack: No. When I don’t feel like alcohol, I have Claytons.

Voiceover: Claytons. The drink you’re having when you’re not having a drink

The term has since been adopted  to describe something that is largely illusory or exists in name only –  a poor substitute or imitation – and it is an apt description for the quarterly Port Botany Community Consultation Committee meetings.

Up until last year there were two committees – the Port Botany Neighbourhood Liaison Group which was a forum for sharing information between port operators and tenants and residential neighbours and businesses.  It was chaired by Shane Hobday, Sydney Ports Corporation, and when privatized it had the same chairman but now employed by NSW Ports.  shane    The other, was the Port Botany Community Consultative Committee which was established under the Conditions of Consent for the Port Expansion.  This was chaired by  Dr Robert Ryan Roberta-Ryan1  who was appointed in 2006 by the Department of Planning.

In October 2013 the two committees were merged to form the Port Botany Community Consultative Committee with Dr Ryan as chairperson. There have been 4 meetings held (November 2013, February 2014, May 2014, August 2014).  The new committee is larger as a result of the merge but with a lower proportion of community members – a total of 7. There have been efforts to gain representation (in writing and verbally) for Matraville Precinct (to replace Kelli Parkin) since early this year.  The most recent was an attempt to table an application provided by the current secretary of the Precinct.  This was not accepted because the Chairperson and NSW Ports staff don’t want any community members added until the Terms of Reference(TOR) are revised.  The TOR should have been dealt with during the merge, it is now an excuse to slow the process or ultimately exclude.  [Update January 2015:  contrary to what was stated about the need to finalise Terms of Reference before replacing community members the secretary of Matraville Precinct did attend the November meeting as a new member]

Notwithstanding this recalcitrant approach to engagement with the local community, what actual benefit does this committee provide to the community?  In its current form, very little.   Certainly, there’s an opportunity to share information between the various stakeholders but it’s limited because of time (4 relatively short meetings a year) and out of committee on-line sharing is not proactively facilitated.

The most recent meeting was held on 26th August at the Lakes Business Park in Lord Street Botany.  It started late followed by the usual around the table introductions (with such a large membership who can remember – what’s wrong with place cards?). Four of the seven community members attended.  There was a rapid fire delivery of business arising and an item on Terms of Reference.  NSW Ports and the Chair are drafting the TOR and community input is tacked on afterwards when the committee members, including community, comment on the draft.

SICTL and Patrick provided useful updates as part of their obligations under the 2005 Conditions of Consent.  Patrick will be fully automated and there will be no beepers on their new autostrads (SICTL are already there).   Patrick are consulting with Department of Planning, OEH(EPA), RMS, Botany Bay and Randwick City Councils on their new Operational Environment Management Plan(OEMP).  Link to Patrick Environmental reporting.  SICTL’s rail operations have commenced with 4-5 trains per week with approximately 90-95 containers per train.  A full breakdown will be provided to the next meeting.  There was some discussion about rail share.  When the Port Expansion was approved on 13th October 2005 the Department of Planning released the Brereton Railing Port Botany Containers Report at the same time setting a target for freight by rail at 40% by 2011.  It was a figure that was used for traffic modelling.  The current figure is 13% for DP World, there was no figure reported for Patrick but overall the Port is understood to be below 12%.   Increasing the rail share is a major community issue.

Other tenants reported:  Terminals will have additional tanks;  Vopak have rectified the problem that caused odour impacts;  Caltex provided a rundown of the oil spill that impacted Congwong Bay.  The EPA need to establish pages on their website for serial polluters to record these breaches otherwise it is difficult for the community at large to understand the bigger cumulative impact.

Sydney Ports presented drawings on the proposed groynes.  The artist’s impression shows how the beach at Foreshore was supposed to be post expansion.  Community argued at the Commission of Inquiry in 2004 and 2005 that it would become highly eroded and polluted.  The Sydney Ports experts disagreed.Foreshore-Beach-1  Today, the beach is highly eroded and is the most polluted in Botany Bay. and now Sydney Ports will have to install 3 groynes to address the erosion.

The hottest topic was the Port Botany Noise Update from the EPA. Half the letters to the Southern Courier the same day had been about Port Noise. Port 3port 1 The EPA have encouraged some key stakeholders  to address this critical and escalating issue but it appears to be an uphill battle to get ‘buy in’.   There is a group but as the EPA representative reminded the meeting “it’s not the EPA’s Noise Working Group”.  Despite many requests the Group is not ready for a community member to join so reporting has to be in more detail(and take up more time as a result) at these meetings.   For many years community have argued that beeper alarms be changed to squawkers (see study conducted for EPA in 2009)  and have been told that it is a WHS issue. The EPA provided a valuable powerpoint presentation.

Minutes of previous meetings of the Port Botany Neighbourhood Liaison Group and new PBCCC – all on one page because despite requests it was beyond NSW Ports to do it.




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