11 Dec 2020

Christmas convoy brings thousands of goods from NorthPort

From Checkpoint, 5:08 pm on 11 December 2020

Furniture, clothing, bikes, construction fittings and footwear are among thousands of products making their way south from Whangārei in a Christmas convoy.

The products are in 1200 containers which have been offloaded at NorthPort, due to the lengthy and ongoing freight hold-ups at the Ports of Auckland.

The smaller NorthPort stepped up to take the cargo. Hundreds of trucks are now ferrying the containers south, which has added to an already stressed state highway 1.

"We normally start at 6:30 in the morning but today I started at 4am," one truck driver told Checkpoint.

"Maybe I'll come back for a second run. It's hard because I don't know about the traffic conditions."

The containers are full of everything from building supplies to bikes and bedroom furniture.

It is the biggest shipment NorthPort has ever seen. Such large container ships usually go to the Ports of Auckland, but staffing shortages and ongoing automation issues mean the ship would have had to wait two and a half weeks to get in.

Truck drivers on Friday said things were working efficiently. Many truckies will be making two trips a day, but some say it is not a particularly smooth drive.

"Unbelievably stupid, it's rough, lots of roadworks, it's the first time I've been up here in probably three years and it's deteriorated quite badly," one driver said.

Several roadworks projects, pedestrian crossings and busy intersections in regional towns mean travellers are being warned to take extra care on the road as the truckloads will continue for at least the next week, from 6am to midnight, with Sunday being the only exception.

Senior sergeant Lex Soegnal said police are just south of NorthPort to do driver and vehicle checks.

"The majority of truck drivers and their operating firms are very safety conscious. I guess this is just a check to make sure everything's right," he said.

"We're stopping all heavy motor vehicles, as many as possible, and checking the whole routine. The last thing we want is a crash at this time of year involving a truck, which will ultimately close the road down for long periods of time, which will affect everyone.

"I'd say most of the containers will definitely get there. Issues we are small things like basic maintenance they should be doing, tyres, things like that, there's some weight issues where the containers are too heavy for the vehicles, or they're not permitted, which is all stuff that should be cleared in a couple of hours."

The effect of the trucks is already being felt at towns along the route. In Wellsford, the already clogged main road just got a whole lot busier.

"Everyone's worried about the roads obviously because they're already a bit broken up. But it's good to see movement, activity, business still happening," one Wellsford resident said.

Road was the only option for the freight with the Whangārei to Auckland rail line out of action for upgrades.

But Whangārei's mayor is hopeful a successful few days will prove NorthPort's abilities to take bigger loads in the future.