Town of Port Hedland
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A Community Conversation forum on the proposed Port Hedland waterfront development was held on 19 July 2014 at the Civic Centre gardens.  The forum provided an opportunity for community members to hear from a panel of speakers and ask questions about the project. 

Speakers included Town of Port Hedland Mayor Kelly Howlett, Chief Executive Officer Mal Osborne, Landcorp Senior Project Manager Todd Wood, BHP Billiton Iron Ore Head of Community and Indigenous Affairs Richard O'Connell and Port Hedland Yacht Club Commodore John Bartlem. Copies of their speeches are available online.

 The purpose of the session was to:

  1. Provide a status update on the work done to date on planning for our Waterfront/Marina Development
  2. Discuss development opportunities for both the West End/Spoilbank and East End/Cooke Point
  3. Present the elements of a Waterfront Development that are most desired by the community as demonstrated by the Marina Placemaking Plan (Draft)

Frequently Asked Questions 

Speech given by Mayor Kelly Howlett

Statement from Town of Port Hedland CEO Mal Osborne

Statement from Landcorp

Statement from BHP Billiton Iron Ore

A question and answer session was facilitated by Mal Osborne.  For a record of these comments please click this link.


Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Cooke Point being investigated as an alternative location for the waterfront development when Cabinet has already approved and funded Spoilbank?

Although the Spoilbank location has received Cabinet approval and funding there are factors that could impact the approval and outcome of the waterfront precinct on the Spoilbank. Therefore an alternative location is being investigated however there is no current decision to relocate to Cooke Point.

What studies are being undertaken at Cooke Point?

LandCorp is project managing detailed due diligence of Cooke Point to enable a balanced comparison between Cooke Point to the currently approved Spoilbank site as the location for the proposed Port Hedland waterfront precinct.

Why are these studies being undertaken?

The outcome of the Cooke Point studies will allow a reasonable comparison of the two sites with regards to considerations such as construction costs, ongoing operating costs, environmental risks and size.

Will the studies impact nearby residents?

No, these initial studies are not expected to impact nearby residents in any way.

Who is paying for the studies at Cooke Point?

The State, Town of Port Hedland and BHP Billiton have agreed to a joint funding arrangement to investigate Cooke Point as an alternative site in greater detail.

How much are these studies costing?

The current budget for the studies is $650,000 comprising the State contributing $200,000 through the Northern Planning Program and the Town of Port Hedland and BHP Billiton have agreed to jointly fund up to $450,000.

What about the $152million approved by the State Government and the Town of Port Hedland for the Spoilbank site?

LandCorp will continue planning to progress the development of the Waterfront Precinct at the Spoilbank site as endorsed by Cabinet in July 2012 with joint funding from the Town of Port Hedland.

Isn’t this duplication a waste of time and money?

The studies on Cooke Point will provide the basis for comparison between the Spoilbank and Cooke Point without these studies a detailed comparison isn’t possible. Studies of this detail have not been undertaken previously hence why they are needed as part of the due diligence process.

Does this mean the Spoilbank site is unsuitable?

Although the Spoilbank location has received Cabinet approval and funding there are factors that could impact the approval and outcome of the waterfront precinct on the Spoilbank. Therefore an alternative location is being investigated however there is no current decision to relocate to Cooke Point.

If the Cooke Point site is chosen, will people still be able to fish from the Rock of Ages?

Any potential waterfront development on Cooke Point would have to ensure recreational fishing access is maintained.

What types of facilities are planned for the Port Hedland Waterfront Precinct?

Ultimately, the proposed Port Hedland Waterfront development may feature a marina that incorporates boardwalks, event spaces, public swimming areas, playgrounds, fishing platforms, barbecues, exercise areas and opportunities for cafes, restaurants and bars.

When will a decision on the preferred site for the Port Hedland marina be made?

The investigations will be completed by early 2015. The results will be presented to community and all stakeholders, including the Premier and Cabinet before a decision is made.

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Speech given by Mayor Kelly Howlett

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Good morning and welcome fellow panel members, ladies & gentleman and thank you for coming and being a part of this morning’s Community Conversations event.

At the outset, I would like to take the opportunity to respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this land we are on this morning.

I would also like to acknowledge the attendance of Hon Brendon Grylls Member for Pilbara and the Hon Jacqui Boydell Member Mining & Pastoral thank you for coming and being a part of today.

The CEO in his introduction outlined the bulk of the Town’s position and the background of where we are currently in terms of the Waterfront and Port Hedland Marina development. As Mayor let me also re-iterate the Town of Port Hedland supports the development of the Old Hospital site with residential/commercial development and we also strongly support in principle the proposed Finbarr development and we strongly support activation of the Spoilbank.

This morning I just want to take this opportunity to provide further context and highlight two very important decision point triggers that have set a course and made it such that we are where we are today and as a community we really are here at this point, like a small yacht in very rough weather, whether we like it or not.

At the outset I want to stress again that the Town of Port Hedland is fully committed to activating our fantastic waterfront and developing a precinct that everyone can enjoy – this may include boardwalks, event space amphitheatre, safe swimming areas, playgrounds, boat ramps, fishing platforms, cafes/restaurants, barbecues, boat stackers, fuelling points and boat maintenance points.

In one form or another the Town has been working on a marina precinct project for the community with serious intent since 2008/2009. Many of you have been involved in those efforts. In 2012 the TOPH handed over the waterfront and marina project to LandCorp and collaboratively we commenced investigations with the State Government and Landcorp to develop a marina at the Spoilbank site. Council’s resolution currently reflects this intent and is still primarily focussed on the Spoilbank site.

These efforts and work culminated in a State Government commitment of $112M and the TOPH committing $40M for this project. This is a massive commitment both at a State and from the Council’s point of view and nothing like it we have seen here for our Town. But unfortunately while this combined commitment of $152 million is significant, it does not fully fund the proposed development which is in excess of $200M. That was fine as we had thought that the residential and commercial development on the Spoilbank, a mixture of cafes/restaurants and short term and permanent residential development would assist in providing the remaining funds that are required and in effect would ensure we have a fully funded project.

This was dealt a massive blow and really is trigger point 1- when on the 9th August 2013 the EPA publicly advised that they were not able to consider the Local Planning Scheme Amendment that would allow built form on the Spoilbank until such time as the Health Risk Assessment has been finalised. This is expected to be delivered by mid 2015.

This means today we do not have a fully funded project and we do not have the means to deliver what we said or what we want to deliver for our community. Despite some views within the community who think we have the money and we should just go out there and do the development. We don’t and we do not currently have a fully funded project we can proceed with.

But as a Council we are extremely hopeful of the Health Risk Assessment outcomes being known mid 2015 and hopefully then this may clear the way for the our application to be re-lodged with the EPA and for the EPA to make an assessment and to permit residential development on the Spoilbank. This fits with the current project milestones and if so can potentially mean that if all the other relevant environmental, heritage, planning approvals come through, then things could proceed at the Spoilbank site.

Procuring the relevant approvals and undertaking the necessary planning and investigatory works are still continuing and taking place at the Spoilbank site.

The 2nd important trigger point I want everyone to be aware of took place on the 14th May this year, when the Deputy Mayor, CEO and myself met with the Premier the Honourable Colin Barnett.

We discussed the Spoilbank Marina and the development of Port Hedland's "West-End".

The Premier was advised of the "due diligence" process being undertaken by the Town and Landcorp.

The Premier strongly expressed concerns regarding the development of the marina on the Spoilbank (this was the first time and despite ther earlier Cabinet approval in terms of not supporting the Spoilbank marina proposal, especially given the announcements and State funding allocation). The Premier stated his concerns on the basis of the following reasons;

  1. State Solicitor's Office preparing legal advice that is likely to foreshadow risk to the State and possibly to the Town if the full marina and associated residential development occurs at the Spoilbank site. This is such that regardless of any other approvals sought, this State Solicitor’s advice would trump any other approvals gained.
  2. The timing of obtaining all requisite approvals for the Spoilbank development is likely to take considerable time and it was even stressed it would be beyond this term of Government.
  3. The State will always give precedence to shipping (in terms of importance) over recreational boating.

 The Premier also stated that;

  1. Passive recreation and caravan/camping is supported on the Spoilbank.
  2. The State's $112M remains available for a Marina in Port Hedland
  3. In his opinion, the timing of a Cooke Point development would be more expeditious than a similar Spoilbank development.
  4. The State "would go hard to ensure the delivery of a Cooke Point development."
  5. The State would consider additional funding (over and above the $112M) to facilitate the Cooke Point development.

 These were the views expressed at this meeting by the Premier and our local member the Hon Brendon Grylls is also aware of these views and has met with the Premier on these views. In light of the information from the meeting on 14th May 2014 this new information has been conveyed to all Council (elected members and executive) and our State Government project partners LandCorp.

Where to from here?

So that in effect leaves us to where we are here today, definitely lines cast out in very stormy seas -

  1. The Town, BHPBIO and Landcorp have agreed on the basis for the "due diligence" work assessment of the Cooke Point site.
  2. Landcorp have been requested to progress with essential work on the Spoilbank site whilst the Cooke Point assessment is undertaken so that a comprehensive analysis of the two sites van be made.
  3. This work should be completed within 6 months, allowing the Town to fully consider its options regarding a preferred Marina site and the costs and other consequences of selecting a site.

 I want to stress that no decision had been made yet on the Cooke Point site.

In light of these two significant decision point triggers, the Town of Port Hedland is still strongly committed to developing a waterfront and Port Hedland Marina development precinct. As a Council our utmost concern is the risk of losing the State Government’s $112M. We are all only too well aware in Broome monies pledged for boating facilities were lost when issues arouse with the site and there was conflict in the community about the site.

The waterfront and marina development is a game changer and a true city transition project for the Town, and any such decision moving forward cannot ignore or exclude the EPA/Premier/State Solicitor advice in the context of making any decision in the future.

Over the next 6 months, in the context of these decisions and views once all the due diligence studies and information is available, Council represents the community, its views and best interests but any decision going forward must be in the context I have outlined and must together with community following consider:

  • what do we really want
  • what are we prepared to risk
  • what are we prepared to lose in the process if we go against the Premier and if the development cannot proceed during the term of this current Government

 Thank you

Statement from Town of Port Hedland CEO Mal Osborne

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The development of a waterfront development and Marina has been a long held vision for Port Hedland. This vision and desire culminated in a State Government commitment of $112 million and Town of Port Hedland commitment of $40 million for the project as part of the Pilbara Cities program.

 The design and planning has been managed by Landcorp with preliminary design works being undertaken as well as a range of engineering and environmental studies. The Town of Port Hedland has been preparing a Business Plan as required under the Local Government Act because of the significant local government financial commitment to the project.

 A Local Planning Scheme amendment was prepared to facilitate not only the Marina development but a range of other elements including permanent and short-term accommodation options, retail, hospitality and public facilities. The Environmental Protection Agency has advised that they are not able to consider the amendment until such time as the Health Risk Assessment has been finalised. This is expected to be delivered by mid-2015.

Due diligence studies have commenced into an alternative location at Cooke Point – this is in case any fatal flaws are identified for either site we are not behind the eight ball and have to start investigations from scratch for an alternative site. This work continues and is expected to be finalised by the end of this year with a report provided in early 2015.

More recently, the State has indicated to the Town that it has concerns over the development of a marina and associated development on the Spoilbank due primarily to concerns of the sovereign risk to the Pilbara Port Authority shipping channel. State Solicitor's advice is pending and that may indicate unacceptable risks to the State from developing the Marina on the Spoilbank. The State remains committed to the delivery of a Marina in Port Hedland. Irrespective of the location of our Marina, the Town remains committed to activating the Spoilbank with a level of community amenity, commercial and civic developments, together with improved public access that we can all be proud of. 

Statement from Landcorp

Spoilbank – Scheme Amendment

  • Since receiving ToPH / State funding approval of $152m in July 2012
  • We commenced scheme amendment process in late 2012 seeking a rezoning to obtain West End residential land use over the Spoilbank. It was subsequently lodged / referred to EPA. After ongoing discussions between LC, ToPH and EPA
  • In February 2014 the EPA formally advised the environmental issues pertaining to the Scheme Amendment could not be resolved prior to the publication of the Health Risk Assessment due to be released in early / mid 2015, whilst not ideal it hasn’t prevented us from proceeding with the necessary environmental studies

 Spoilbank – Dust Monitors

  • Through the rezoning process it became apparent ascertaining the dust levels on the Spoilbank would be beneficial for any future planning approvals
  • 2 dust monitors were installed in Dec 2013 for minimum of 12 months for monitoring & sampling of dust

 Spoilbank – Environmental - RPS

Since Dec 2013 we have completed environmental studies to close out detailed design drawings and to be utilised for future planning approvals. These include:

  • Waterbird Technical Review
  • Marine Fauna Review
  • Noise Impact Assessment
  • Hazardous Materials Report
  • Detailed site assessment - acid sulfate soils and contamination
  • Built form light measurements (turtle nesting)
  • Ground water monitoring (ongoing through to early 2015)

 Spoilbank – Other Studies Completed

  • Boating Demand Study (MP Rogers)
  • Coastal Setback Assessment (MP Rogers)
  • Property Economics Advice (RPS)
  • Place Making (Village Well)

 Spoilbank – Future Work

Now proceeding to develop / refine concept plans in consultation with stakeholders including:
  • ToPH
  • PHPA
  • PHYC / TS Pilbara
  • Industry
  • Community

 Cooke Point Investigations

  • Why – there are factors that could impact the approval / development outcome on the Spoilbank its prudent to investigate all options. The Cooke Point investigations will proceed concurrently with the Spoilbank concept planning, this isn’t pre-empting an outcome on the Spoilbank its just taking a pro-active approach
  • Outcome - the investigations will help provide a balanced comparison between Cooke Point and the Spoilbank locations
  • Comparison points will include –
    • construction cost, ongoing operating cost, approval risks, development outcome
    • Initial investigations comprise geo-tech (land/water), environmental, heritage,marine / civil engineering
    • Funding -The State, ToPH and BHPB have agreed to jointly fund the investigative work on Cooke Point.
    • Timing – investigations / comparison complete early 2015

Statement from BHP Billiton Iron Ore

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BHP Billiton is very pleased to have the opportunity to clarify our position on the Port Hedland waterside and landside development.

The amenity and future of the Town is important to us and over 1500 residential employee and contractors that help run our business in Port Hedland.

The proposed development is not a BHP Billiton project – it is a State and local government funded project intended to benefit the broader community. We respect other members of the community having their say and, as a long term member of the community, we too have an opinion.

In short, BHP Billiton supports the Town of Port Hedland’s aspiration for a comprehensive waterside and landside development.

What is proposed at the Spoilbank and old Hospital site is a comprehensive waterside and landside development containing significant residential development. Because of the potential for future land use conflict created, we are voicing our concern with what is proposed.

Consistent with the recommendations of the Governments Dust and Noise Taskforce, we have consistently opposed permanent residential development in those areas in the West End that have not been zoned residential.

When the proposed Spoilbank marina and old hospital site development was first announced in July 2012 there was no permanent residential component. The Spoilbank marina and old hospital site development now envisages significant permanent residential dwellings.

We are not opposed to other development occurring on the Spoilbank. For example, we did not object to the early concept that included a short term tourist caravan park and public swimming pool.

BHP Billiton supports the Town’s aspiration of a comprehensive waterside and landside development but our preference is for this iconic project including significant residential development to be located in the east end of Port Hedland away from the Port. The Land Corp feasibility study will determine if this is practical.

We genuinely want to ensure the community gets a positive outcome. But equally, we are seeking to ensure both the town and industry can continue to grow without setting ourselves up for significant future land use conflict.

Summary of notes from Community Conversations

Questions Comments
Dust
  • Why has the dust not posed a risk to long-term residents in the West End in the past? Why has it been identified as a risk now?
  • If the Old Port Hedland Hospital site was cleared for dust issues, why is Spoilbank not ok?
  • Is there a risk to current residents in the West End?
  • Are there not existing studies on the dust risk?
  • Other studies have proven that iron ore dust poses no serious risk to people. Why has a study been initiated?
Will BHP Billiton develop a dust mitigation strategy?

The Health Risk Assessment (HRA) has been commissioned by the State. It is being undertaken to facilitate appropriate management of the port and development in the West End and to determine the potential risk of dust particulates to human health.

The EPA deemed the proposed scheme amendment for the marina could not be environmentally assessed. It has taken the precautionary principle approach and is awaiting the findings and recommendations of the HRA and associated studies to be finalised prior to determining the draft scheme amendment can be publicly advertised.

All scheme amendments that are presented to Council for approval are sent to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for comment prior to commencing the public advertising process. The EPA will determine whether additional environmental studies are needed before the scheme amendment is endorsed. In this case, the EPA recognised that the HRA was being undertaken and would affect this scheme amendment and therefore recommended Council wait until the HRA was completed before commencing public advertising. This is the reason for the delay in the process.

It is important to note the HRA is being undertaken by the State Government, not the EPA. The EPA is an agency of the Department of Health and acts as an advisory body. The decision-making rests with the Department of Health and State Government.

The HRA is due in February 2015 and will outline and identify any health risks to residents and recommendations for future development of port operations and development of the West End. Ultimately, the Minister for Planning will make the final decision on whether the scheme amendment will be approved based on the recommendations of the EPA and other information, including the results of the HRA and dust modelling which is being simultaneously undertaken.

BHP Billiton is not only concerned about the dust – they are also concerned with noise pollution and lightfall. There is also the potential that their operations may provide further conflict in the future. BHP Billiton is not opposed to the marina development as a whole; however it has raised concern with regards to the location of the marina and the residential development component

Location: Spoilbank vs Cooke Point

  • Why is Cooke Point being considered?
  • Why can’t the due diligence studies be done once the HRA decision comes through?
  • Who owns Spoilbank and what is the risk?
  • Whose idea was it to investigate Cooke Point?
 The Town, BHP Billiton and Landcorp are working together to undertake due diligence studies at Cooke Point. The studies are taking place at the same time as due diligence studies at Spoilbank so that both sites can be compared to ensure we are making the best decision possible for the community and the development.

As part of meticulous project management it was decided that it would be efficient to undertake the Cooke Point due diligence while the Spoilbank due diligence studies were taken so that a decision on preferred site location could be made once the State release the findings and recommendations of the HRA. If we had waited until the HRA was released and the verdict was the Spoilbank site was unsuitable, we would then lose an additional 12 months of the project towards the Cooke Point due diligence studies.

The Spoilbank land is owned by the Crown and is vested to the Town of Port Hedland under a management order. The decision to undertake site investigations at Cooke Point was made by the Town of Port Hedland, BHP Billiton and Landcorp as part of project due diligence

Preferred site

  • What is the Town’s preferred site?
The Council has always supported the marina and waterfront development taking place at Spoilbank. However, a final decision cannot be made until due diligence site investigations are complete and the results from the HRA have been released.

Risks

  • What are the risks?
 There are a number of risks associated with the marina and waterfront development project:
  1. Dust is the main issue however the Town is waiting on the results of the HRA before making any decisions based on this risk.
  2. Environmental and land development – part of the due diligence studies is to identify any risks to our natural environment and impacts caused by development, and also looking at the long term risks to developments that may be caused by the environment, such as cyclones, storm surge, sand migration marine habitat etc.
  3. Sales potential and revenue – in order for the marina and waterfront development to be successful, the Town and Landcorp need to be confident that the project is economically viable through the sales/leasing of boat pens, short-stay accommodation, commercial space etc.
Safety – Port Hedland has one of the busiest ports and shipping channels in the world. Any waterfront development irrespective of site will need to take this into consideration to reduce risks to both the port operations and our recreational users

Alternate options

  • Has the Town considered non-residential development?
  • If neither site is suitable, what happens next?
  • The Spoilbank site has been identified as the ideal site for marina development in consultation with the community. If the health risk from dust is a problem, should we halt business and relocate current residents?
 The $152 million will deliver the required infrastructure for the marina/waterfront development.

The due diligence site investigations are to identify any fatal flaws with both Spoilbank and Cooke Point. Combined with the results of the HRA, a decision will be made on one of the two sites. A decision has to be made to secure the State Government funding.

The State Government is undertaking a precautionary approach and the HRA and associated studies will provide the State Government and the Town with clear basis and knowledge for future decision-making processes.

Additional comments

  • Multi-use channels are a risk, more education is needed. There is no reason by the marina cannot be located at the Spoilbank.
  • If there is concern about the dust, why increase production and stockpiles? Why can’t BHP Billiton invest in upgrading their equipment to mitigate the dust risk?
  • There is no regulation for minimum separation distance (between commercial and recreational vessels, only applies to oil rigs)
  • From Pilbara Port Authority: The PPA has considered the proposed development. Main concern is that increased growth of port activity will mean increased shipping movement – therefore also increasing the risks between the ships and recreational boats. The PPA is not opposed to the marina development. In order to reduce the safety risk there needs to be separation between commercial and recreational activities.
  • The Council should support the community’s desire to have a marina at the Spoilbank.
  • There is plenty of room in the Spoilbank channel so there is no risk. The community is owed a marina and fishing spots. Cooke Point will not work.
  • The traditional owners have not been consulted throughout the entire process and need to be included in further discussions.