28 Mar 2017

Auckland Council told to hurry up on port's future

9:39 pm on 28 March 2017

Auckland Council needs to get cracking on the future of the city's downtown port, a high-powered delegation says.

The council has been treading water on the port's future after a study, which the council commissioned, last year suggested the Firth of Thames or Manukau Harbour as the best alternative sites.

A delegation including business leader Sir Stephen Tindall has told the council it needs to start making decisions about a new site for the port, even if it can't agree when or how it would be built.

Richard Didsbury, who was on the group which produced the council's Port Future Study, told the council finance committee that the question of where a new port might go was the first decision.

"We're not suggesting you make a decision on timing, we're suggesting you must get an option on where that port is, so subsequent councils can wrestle with timing," he said.

The Port Future Study had estimated the container port would run out of room by about 2055.

Advocacy group Stop Stealing Our Harbour spokesperson Shane Vuletich said if the council did nothing and waited for that to happen, it could waste a lot of money trying to extend the life of a port that had a limited future.

Previous debate about the port has questioned whether future port growth should be tackled jointly by Auckland and the ports of Tauranga and Northland - something troubling Auckland mayor Phil Goff.

"In a country of our size, don't you think it would make sense to examine a port location that works for the region and not simply make a unilateral decision," Mr Goff asked the group.

However, Mr Didsbury said Auckland had waited a long time for others to make decisions and the council needed to go it alone.

Many other big Auckland decisions would be affected by where the port went, Mr Didsbury said.

If Manukau was chosen as the location, the need for freight rail links would affect future passenger rail routes to the nearby airport.

The cost of a new port has been estimated at $5-7 billion.

Sir Stephen said, despite the cost, there was an upside in closing the existing port.

"What will happen is that it'll unlock 77 hectares of incredibly valuable land on our beautiful waterfront and enable us to use it for the people, as opposed to an industrial use," he said.

"The other thing is that because of that, a lot of value will be unlocked that can help pay for a new port."

An artist's impression of Auckland's waterfront in 2050.

An artist's impression of Auckland's waterfront in 2050: Sir Stephen Tindall said moving the port would free up valuable land for other development. Photo: Supplied/Fresh Info

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