Paul Robinson

Director, Integrated Strategic Management Pty Ltd, Syndey, Australia

Innovation, Collaboration and Communication: The Future for the Shrinking Port of Sydney Harbour

When Captain Arthur Philip entered the Heads of Sydney Harbour on the 26th of January 1788 to establish European settlement in Australia, he noted in his first dispatch to England: “…we had the satisfaction of finding the finest harbour in the world, in which a thousand sail of the line may ride in the most perfect security…”
This “finest” harbour, Sydney Harbour, is some 55sqkm in area with a shoreline of approximately 320km. In just over 200 years, Sydney has developed into one of the world’s most prominent international cities.
International tourism currently injects $8.6B annually into the City’s economy through 74M visitor nights. This is expected to grow to 115M annual visitor nights (35% increase) by 2024/25.
A growing component of the tourism market is the significant growth in the Cruise Industry with “Australia at the top of the global Cruise Industry for market penetration (5.3% of the Australian population taking a cruise in 2016)” – Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA ) 2016 Report.
Consequently, as the value of land in Sydney continues to increase due to population growth, the significant demands on Sydney Harbour and its Foreshores will continue to inevitably grow as the value of foreshore land, in particular, grows unabated.
What does this then mean to the future of Sydney Harbour, possibly the finest deep water harbour in the world, as a working Port and as an economic contributor to the economy of Sydney and Australia generally?
This is the dilemma facing Sydney as it confronts the future of its harbour into the 21st Century.

Issues confronting the future of the Harbour
1. Growth of Sydney: Australia’ largest city of 4.5M people with an expected population increase of 1.6M (36%) in next 20 years;
2. Harbour Dependent Industries
– The Cruise industry continues to grow with increasing visitation from larger ships. The iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge limits the size of certain ships and there is a need for a 3rd Cruise Terminal to service the Cruise Industry with limited development opportunities;
– Tourism is a primary income generator for Sydney’s economy and yet the Charter Vessel Industry finds it increasingly difficult to establish permanent bases around the Harbour foreshore;
– Water-based Transport continues to grow which leads to increased capacity requirements to house and service a growing fleet of vessels;
– Import/Export Bulk Trade must be retained and accommodated to service the Construction Industry in transitioning Sydney to a high-rise metropolis;
– The Waterfront Contracting Industry is an essential service as the value of residential, commercial and transport related real estate built on Sydney Harbour grows exponentially;
– Marinas and Recreational Boating Industry
3. Governance: There is currently no overarching Harbour Strategy in place. There is an urgent requirement for a new governance framework which can coordinate short term and immediate needs, an holistic overview of the harbour economy and a overarching vision for the future.

With over 30 Government entities all having an ownership interest in the harbour foreshore the question arises as what role the Port Authority should play in this process.
The Port Authority owns only 3 km (1%) of the 320km of the Sydney Harbour shoreline as the majority of the former Port lands have, over several decades, been transformed into urban redevelopment areas such as Darling Harbour, Woolloomooloo Wharf, Walsh Bay and, more recently, Barangaroo. The State Government of New South Wales, however, has recently identified that the Port Authority must play a key role in putting in place some of the framework for future change.
Current and future initiatives include a Bulk Goods Multi-User Facility at Glebe Island including the relocation of Sydney’s primary Concrete Batching Plants; developing a Plan for the future integration of the above facilities with Urban Regeneration opportunities; a Master Plan for a Working Harbour Precinct at White Bay; Investigating Sites for a 3rd Cruise Terminal and developing Strategies to accommodate increased Cruise demand at Australia’s preeminent Cruise Terminal in Circular Quay adjacent to the infamous Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
The purpose of the Paper and Presentation will be to show the changing landscape of the Port and identify strategies involving Innovation, Collaboration and Communication currently underway to achieve successful outcomes in all of the above initiatives.


Paul Robinson is a Fellow of the Australian Property Institute, a Member of the Institution of Surveyors (Aust), has Degrees in Business and Surveying, is an Executive Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) and is an Accredited Commercial Mediator.
He had an extensive career of over 40 years in the New South Wales public sector as a Senior Executive. Following retirement in 2013 he established a consultancy business and continues to provide property and strategic planning expertise in Foreshore Management.
His experience includes overall management of title to Sydney Harbour and the 2100 foreshore leases surrounding Sydney Harbour – 1988 (appointment as Chief Surveyor Maritime Services Board); Assisted in the Corporatisation of the NSW Ports in 1995; Conference Director for the International Association of Cities and Ports Conference (AIVP) held in Sydney 2006; Intimate knowledge of Sydney Harbour and its Foreshore Lands including the complexity of government ownership, the planning framework and legislation as well as the issues associated with development around the foreshore; With a background as a Senior Executive across several NSW Government Agencies, he has extensive knowledge and experience across all 5 Commercial Ports and the 24 Regional Ports along the NSW coast.
Having worked in the public sector both as an employee and consultant/contractor for some 46 years he has been involved, at a senior level, in many sensitive State significant projects. This has involved the briefing of Ministers and Boards as required as well as dealing with a multitude of stakeholders and community groups.