8 Sep 2023

Privatising Ports of Auckland could see local users hit with $70 million in extra costs annually

11:14 am on 8 September 2023
Ports of Auckland

Ports of Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Kymberlee Fernandes

Privatising the Ports of Auckland has the potential for major price hikes to be passed onto consumers, a report from the Maritime Union shows.

Auckland Council is reviewing options to sell the operations lease for the ports to an international operator, and has commissioned consultants to seek expressions of interest.

Maritime Union national secretary Craig Harrison said any private operator in Auckland would have a monopoly over the port.

He said privatising operations was estimated to hit local port users with $70 million annually in extra costs.

"The failed automation experiment at Ports of Auckland shows there is no fat to be cut at the port, and private profit through privatisation would be extracted from port users and the local economy," he said.

Harrison said there was growing concern around a lack of clear strategy for the ports and decision making being driven on a short term, ad hoc basis.

"The Ports of Auckland is going through the a period of growth and stability under new leadership with improving returns, and should be left to get on with the job and not meddled with," he said.

Speaking to Morning Report, Harrison said he had experience with the unions in Australia that work with the ports and had seen sales and leasing take place over there.

"We knew that the cost is always passed on to the end user and we thought we'd get the report done so the wider public of Auckland and New Zealand can see what's going to be in the end result."

Harrison said the Maritime Union came up with the $70m number by "running the numbers" seen in Australia and the return on investment.

"It doesn't matter who is going to lease it, or run the port, if it's a significant amount of money paid for that port, they're going to want a return."

Harrison said he thought the port should never be sold.

It was hard to compare with ports in Australia, for example, as they had multiple operators using the same port and there was choice as to which operator was used.

In Auckland, there was just one terminal and it became a private monopoly.

Whoever grabs it will want a return on their investment and will able to push the price up, he said.

Auckland Council and mayor Wayne Brown's office have been approached for comment.

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