WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti has made a visit to the Esperance region, meeting with staff at Esperance Port and members of the Esperance Shire Council.
The minister received a tour of the port and an update on the Mineral Resources Limited operations, after the state government helped facilitate an agreement with the mining company for the acquisition of Cleveland-Cliffs’ Koolyanobbing operations.
The sale, finalised just weeks before shipping and rail out of Esperance was due to cease, safeguarded hundreds of jobs in the region.
Ms Saffioti said it was exciting to know that Esperance would have continued iron ore trade through the port.
“I was always planning to come down to look at the Port and to talk to the council,” she said.
“The state government came in and created an assistance package to make sure that we could continue the iron ore trade through the port.
“I think it’s exciting for Esperance to have that continued trade – ports are a key economic driver to this town and to cities across the state and we’re making sure that the government is ready to work with the private sector to facilitate more trade.
“Of course there is going to be some rationalisation, as the Premier outlined when he was here, but having the Mineral Resources trade is a lot of job security that wouldn’t have been there if we hadn’t secured that.
“I think there is relief but there is also a reform program that is happening and that is also underway.”
Following a visit to Council, Ms Saffioti was updated on the recently released draft concept design for the jetty and said she looked forward to the feedback from the public consultation.
“There seems to, of course, be a lot of interest in that consultation,” she said.
“I expect a lot of feedback on that from the local community – it will be good to see how that goes.
“I believe people are happy to see the progress on the matter and that it is moving forward because I think there has been a lot of debate over this one for many, many years.
“It appeared like a good design, incorporating some of the heritage provisions with the functional use into the future.”
As Minister for Planning, Ms Saffioti said she was also eager to obtain feedback from Council and local stakeholders on future airline capacity issues and the operations of Rex.
Ms Saffioti said the government would be undertaking an aviation strategy and was keen to ensure the improved capacity of airlines in the region.
“Our government is very focused on promoting tourism throughout WA so we’re just getting an insight into how that’s travelling,” she said.
“The view is that tourism is doing well down here, I did ask about some of the issues that are coming up including Airbnb and what they’d like to see happen there.
“As a result of the inquiry into regional airfares, one of the recommendations is that the state government prepares an aviation strategy looking at how we can continue to drive down the cost of airfares across the state and improve capacity and accessibility; particularly for regional people accessing other parts of WA and Perth.
“There are so many different aspects of it – how we interact with the airlines from a government point of view, the cost of improving and expanding runways so that we have a longterm plan to expand the aviation industry in WA given that transport in regional WA is a key economic driver.
“All of that is a key factor in liveability and economic growth.
“I was interested to see whether there were any pressures on capacity and the feedback currently is that there are not.”
Ms Saffioti said she did not have an update on the current Worksafe investigation into bullying allegations at Southern Ports Authority.