The limited capacity, condition and age of the region’s infrastructure is a major issue. Many of the region’s development opportunities will not be realised without a substantial upgrade of utility, transport, community, and tourism infrastructure. This requires significant government and private sector investment.
The road network is vast, and is becoming a maintenance burden for Local Government. Strategic road improvements are needed to make the highway network safer, and ensure that Local Government roads can accommodate increasing use by road trains and tourism vehicles.
The isolated narrow gauge railway network is generally in poor condition, resulting in a declining use of rail for grain cartage. The subsequent growth in grain cartage by road has markedly increased heavy vehicle movement, magnified road maintenance costs, and raised community concerns about road safety. A corresponding growth in tourism caravans and recreational vehicle movement across the region has amplified these concerns.
The upgrade and connection of the narrow gauge railway system to the national standard gauge rail network, including a link to a Cape class port facility, is a high priority need to enhance access to national and international markets and improve the region’s export capability.
The region’s main ports at Thevenard, Port Lincoln, and Whyalla have functional issues that are hindering export capability and increasing export costs. These ports also do not have container capability.
Container shipping infrastructure is also needed to provide new value-adding business, employment, export and product development opportunities for the region’s primary production industries.
The electrical transmission system is faulty, at full capacity, and is due for replacement in 2017. Business growth opportunities – such as new industrial developments, and the progression of mining projects from exploration to operation – require a substantial upgrade of the electrical transmission, in addition to the construction of a bulk commodities port facility.
Mobile telephone and Internet services are either poor or unavailable in some sections of the region, which is constraining community and business functioning and the efficacy of emergency services. A resolution must be found for these communication black spots.
Social and community infrastructure in many regional towns needs to be upgraded to enhance liveability and assist with workforce attraction. Tourism infrastructure needs continuous improvement to assist visitor attraction, and enhance coastal access and management initiatives.
These collective infrastructure issues need to be resolved because they are hindering economic and business growth.
The airports at Port Lincoln, Whyalla and Ceduna have regular passenger transport (RPT) services, with two carriers (Qantas and Rex) providing RPT at Port Lincoln and Whyalla. As well as servicing the regional community, the airports are important regional gateways for tourists and business travellers.
The Port Lincoln Airport is the busiest regional airport in South Australia, averaging over 190,000 passengers per annum. 40% of passengers are business travellers. The facility also provides an important seafood export hub for fishing and aquaculture industries.
The Port Lincoln Airport was substantially upgraded in 2013 with a new terminal building and aligned infrastructure costing $13.4 million. The Whyalla Airport was upgraded with a new $3 million terminal in 2014. The Ceduna Airport is in the process of being upgraded to provide the infrastructure to support oil and gas exploration in the Great Australian Bight.
These aviation facilities have substantial potential for future growth, and all have strategic development plans in place to expand facilities and services.
Master planning is presently being undertaken for a major upgrade of the Wudinna Aerodrome to support mining operations. This includes the potential return of RPT services, which would provide a fly-in gateway to support tourism initiatives in the north of the region and Gawler Ranges National Park.
Port Facilities at Thevenard, Port Lincoln and Whyalla provide the main domestic and international export hubs for regional product and commodities.
The Whyalla Port principally services the export of iron ore from Arrium. Port Lincoln is the main outlet for the export of grain from the lower Eyre Peninsula, and provides infrastructure to support fishing, aquaculture and cruise tourism operations.
Initiatives are presently being investigated to upgrade infrastructure at Thevenard and Port Lincoln to increase export capability. This includes the provision of alternative port unloading facilities to support fishing industry operations.
The option of constructing South Australia’s first Cape Class export facility at Port Neil is being progressed as part of the mining approval process for Iron Road Limited’s Central Eyre Iron Project (CEIP) at Warramboo. The CEIP was given major project development status by the State Government in August 2013, and major project facilitation status by the Australian Government in April 2014.
The CEIP is the biggest magnetite resource in Australia, estimated at 4 billion tonnes, and has a 25-30 year life based on the export of 21.5 million tonnes of high quality (67%) iron ore per annum.
The proposed Cape Hardy port will accommodate Cape Class vessels and provide the region with export-import container infrastructure. The port is being designed for multi-commodity use, and will provide an important alternative export outlet for the grain sector, which will enhance the competitiveness of the agriculture industry. Iron Road has signed an MOU with international exporter, Emerald Grain, and other third party users are being sought for the port.
The port will be serviced by the region’s first standard gauge railway line from Warramboo. This will provide an opportunity for future connection the national standard gauge rail network, and further enhance the region’s export capability.
The existing supply drawn from ground water basins with top-up reliance from the River Murray is sufficient for the region’s immediate needs, but is not sustainable. The 2013 Eyre Peninsula Demand and Supply Statement review identified that the demand for potable water is expected to exceed supply in 2024-25, and the demand for non-potable water is secure to about 2050.
Given the present state of the River Murray, the supply of Murray River water to Whyalla and Ceduna is not a sustainable solution. The desalination of sea water might not be cost effective with present technologies but, with numerous saline aquifers and 2,000 kilometres of coastline around the region, it might be the best solution for a sustainable water supply.
Some developing mining projects include the provision of desalination plants for their water supply. These plants are of modular construction and can be expanded to produce water in excess of mining needs to supplement the regional water supply.
Renewable energy solutions for the desalination of saline water are presently being pursued.