NATHAN TINKLERTHE state government may hand former BHP land to Nathan Tinkler’s Hunter Ports without going to public tender, according to guidelines the government intends using to assess the project.

While a spokesman for Ports Minister Duncan Gay said the government was yet to receive a formal proposal from Hunter Ports, he said it would be assessed using the government’s guidelines on ‘‘unsolicited private sector proposals’’.

These guidelines allow the government to ‘‘bypass the competitive tendering process’’ if a proposal has ‘‘significant benefit to the public interest’’.

The potential to transfer the land directly to the Tinkler company is the latest development in a fast-moving week of intrigue following Monday’s move by Hunter Ports to unveil more information about the year-old proposal.

Newcastle Trades Hall Council secretary Gary Kennedy said Mayfield residents approaching the union movement for support were ‘‘absolutely opposed to any coal-loader on the BHP land’’.

He said it was impossible to judge the merit of the Tinkler proposal because there was nothing more than a few ‘‘artists’ impressions’’ to go on.

‘‘They are talking about soundproofing and sprayed material on the top of the coal piles to keep the dust to minimal levels but the devil is in the detail and that’s why they have to present a formal proposal,’’ Mr Kennedy said.

Mr Kennedy is also a board member of the Hunter Development Corporation, which is still working on plans to develop 62hectares of the 150hectare steelworks site as an industrial park.

Mr Kennedy said that the corporation was likely to discuss the Hunter Ports plan at its board meeting today.

The Hunter’s remaining two Labor state members, Clayton Barr and Sonia Hornery, said they believed the T4 coal-loader proposed for Kooragang Island was the best way forward for the coal industry.

‘‘The steelworks site has long been set aside for a container and shipping terminal and we think that is a better diversification away from coal,’’ Mr Barr said.

‘‘That said, the 20¢ a tonne levy is an attractive idea but we would want to see it spent across the Hunter Valley.

‘‘We need to get our slice of the pie from the coal boom and the existing terminals should also be thinking about such an offer.’’