The Port of Gladstone will be leased by the Queensland Government, as it tries to balance its books.
The Port of Gladstone will be leased by the Queensland Government, as it tries to balance its books. Emily Kemp

Buy-back of port lease could cost 'hundreds of millions'

A FUTURE government may have to pay hundreds of millions to get the Gladstone Port back into public hands once a lease ends, the Labor party says.

Labor Shadow Treasurer Curtis Pitt said if the port was leased under similar conditions to South Australia's asset leasing agreement, any upgrades made during the agreement would have to be bought back from the lessee.

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He said, under that state's leasing model, the lessee owned any upgrades it undertook which the government would have to buy back at the end of the lease.

"What we know is that this is going to be the case here in Queensland because the Treasurer has said so himself."

Mr Pitt said over the 40 to 99 year length of the leases the port, as well as electricity assets, would need to be replaced at least once - meaning the lease would then own the upgraded asset.

A spokeswoman from Treasurer Tim Nicholls did not deny those conditions would be part of the leases - stating it would not talk about the leasing arrangement until after the election.

"Before any part of the Strong Choices lease plan to pay down Labor's $80 billion debt is put into action, it will be put to the people of Queensland for a mandate at the election," she said.

"Should that occur, strict lease conditions will ensure Queenslanders get best value for money so we can pay down debt and invest in the state's future."

Maritime Union of Australia Queensland branch secretary Mick Carr said the port would undergo hundreds of millions of dollars worth of upgrades.

"Over 50 to 100 years pretty much everything will have to be replaced. A couple of million dollars in that sense is nothing. It's doing to be more like $200,000,000," he said.

"Once gas gets going Gladstone is going to be one of the busiest and biggest multi-commodity ports in Australia. That means a lot of traffic and a lot of things that need maintaining."

Mr Pitt said the price of buying back all the assets the government proposed to lease would cost, in today's money, tens of billions of dollars.