More than $1m each year for infrastructure from port lease

AT least $1 million will be on offer each year for community infrastructure projects such as boat ramps and cycleways through a new fund to be established off the back of the long-term lease of the Port of Newcastle.

Planning minister Rob Stokes will announce on Wednesday that the fund will be set up using revenue earned by the leaseholder, Port of Newcastle Investments.

“As we experience strong growth in Newcastle, it is vital the community reaps the benefits of this progress,” Mr Stokes said.

“This funding will be available for a range of projects, including those with an environmental, recreational or tourism focus, and I encourage organisations such as community groups, not-for-profits and the local council to apply for a share of this money.”

The projects must be within the ‘‘environs of the port’’, and be worth between about $10,000 to $500,000. They could include boat ramps, pollution mitigation measures, car parks, cycleways or landscaping.

But the government is also open to other suggestions. The existing Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund board will assess applications and recommend which projects should get the money.

A ‘‘call for projects’’ process will begin within weeks, run through the Hunter Development Corporation.

Applicants need the the land owner’s consent for the project. Most of the land near the port falls under the lease.

The cash is an annual contribution required of Port of Newcastle Investments, under the lease arrangements.

The government said it was a contracted payment calculated on 1per cent of the port’s navigation services charge that is levied on large vessels, which was not increased as part of the lease deal. That money must be topped up, if need be, to tally at least $1million for the community. Before the port privatisation, the Newcastle Port Corporation also provided support for community programs.