The fifth element

• Peter Newman.

PETER NEWMAN AO is a Fremantle resident and professor of sustainability at Curtin University, where he was mayor Brad Pettitt’s mentor. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED he argues that Fremantle should become a fifth generation port.

THERE are a number of implications if Fremantle were to retain its role ‘primarily focused on container freight handling at North Quay’ into the long term, as suggested by Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt in last week’s Thinking Allowed.

There are of course many issues about ripping open the scar around Roe 8, but the main one I would like to suggest is about the need for a fifth generation port servicing the state’s future economy. 

A fifth generation port is one that is not just a place to move goods but has a strong link to the industries that grow and thrive in the port precinct because they are linked into their export activity.

This is a concept that has developed from the UN’s Conference on Trade and Development.

It suggests that if you want to be part of the global economy you need space around your port to help develop the industries that will be processing and exporting products through the port.

There is no space for a fifth generation port in Fremantle’s inner harbour.

It is a first or second generation port based around the small area set up for the sailing ship era.

It can move containers to a degree, but it is like all such urban ports, totally unable to cope with the trucks and the industries that are likely to become critical to our future economy.

What is this economy? The next big thing is Lithium Valley.

The future will be based around renewable energy and electric vehicles supported by Li-ion batteries.

WA not only has the Lithium but all the other battery metals such as Nickel, Cobalt, Vanadium and Manganese.

The world needs these metals to get us off fossil fuels and we need to provide them in a competitive way.

Lithium Valley is also about how these processed metals – already starting in Kwinana with high quality Lithium and Cobalt – will move into other stages of the value chain, particularly battery manufacture and other industries around their use.

The land area around the West Port precinct is large enough and is already developing these new Lithium Valley industries.

All their products, including the processed minerals, go out in containers, not bulk ships like iron ore or alumina.

The new movements of containers through the port are likely to increase the number of containers beyond Fremantle’s capacity. But more importantly we need a new fifth generation port handling these containers, right there in Kwinana to make a globally competitive Lithium Valley to emerge.

Fremantle port has the opportunity to develop into a social and economic powerhouse through a modern waterfront development and tourism destination for the Indian Ocean region.  The regeneration of the Fremantle port will help us build a knowledge and services economy around our wonderful urban fabric instead of the awful truck traffic.

This traffic does not help us with our heritage-oriented agenda or our need to remove fossil fuels. Fremantle is showing local leadership in a solar and battery-based future, but this U-turn by the council is not helpful about the global need for a new port.

Lithium Valley is good for our city and for the world.

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