Strong benefit for shifting Auckland port to Northland - regional council

7:03 pm on 25 November 2019

Relocating Auckland's port to Northport will bring strong economic benefit for the region, says Northland Regional Council's new chair Penny Smart.

WHANGAREI,NZ - Ship, wood logs and cranes in Northport

Northland, Auckland and Tauranga ports all have business interests in Northport, says Northland Regional Council's chair. Photo: 123RF

"It's clearly a positive move," Ms Smart said.

All Northlanders were watching the port-shift proposal with interest, she said.

Her comments come after former prime ministers Helen Clark and John Key backed calls to relocate Auckland's used-car and container port to Whangārei as part of a new social media campaign launched to grow support for the move.

Ms Smart said the move was obviously advantageous to the region, but also had to work for all three ports affected.

"We have to make sure it works for Northland, Auckland and Tauranga ports," Ms Smart said.

After all, the three ports have business interests in Northport, she said.

Northport ownership is split 50-50 between Port of Tauranga and Marsden Maritime Holdings (MMH). Northland Regional Council is the major shareholder of MMH. (During the 2018/2019 financial year it received dividend payments totalling $3,487,50). MMH is a publicly listed company, its two largest shareholders NRC with 56.3 percent shareholding and the Ports of Auckland with 19.9 percent.

Northland Regional Council chief executive Malcolm Nicolson said there was obvious merit in the proposed shift - not least that it included a substantial boost to the North's regional economy.

Mr Nicolson said Northland's proximity to Auckland meant it could offer that city new opportunity, given it was dealing with considerable and growing pressure and constraints on its own physical spaces and associated infrastructure.

Ms Smart said Northland's four newly elected councils would jointly be discussing the northward port relocation at their December Northland Forward Together group meeting - to be held at the regional council on 9 December.

Shifting Auckland's port to Northland emerged as the best-case future scenario for these three ports in the government-commissioned upper North Island supply chain (UNISCS) working group's Ernst and Young report into the proposal.

The UNISCS working group report, which was chaired by former Far North Mayor Wayne Brown, has recently been submitted to Cabinet.

Ms Smart said she was looking forward to seeing the report when it was published.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said there is a sense of inevitability about the port moving out of Auckland.

Ms Ardern has set no timeframe for government to make a decision on the issue.

She said shifting port infrastructure was a long term process. Adequate infrastructure needed to be provided as part of any shift.

"There's a very clear recognition Northland needs a fully integrated transportation system comprising various methods of transportation - rail, road and coastal shipping - for its economy to flourish," Mr Nicolson said.

Northport is about 140km north of the Ports of Auckland by sea

Relocating the port of Auckland to Northport would be New Zealand's most ambitious infrastructure project ever proposed - costing $10 billion and including a $1.6b rail line to Marsden Point, a freight hub in northwest Auckland, a major Northport expansion and acceleration of four laning State Highway One from Auckland to Whangārei.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says Aucklanders must be compensated if any move is made out of the city.

The debate over relocating Auckland's port

For shifting north: what supporters have said

  • The shift is part of a national, New Zealand big picture from which all will benefit.
  • Relocation will revitalise Northland
  • Shifting the port from Auckland to Northland will strengthen Northland's fully integrated transport system comprising various methods of transportation - rail, road and coastal shipping - for its economy to flourish.
  • Increased business 'resilience' for Northland
  • More jobs
  • Shifting Ports of Auckland out of that city will avoid the need for plans to use high explosives to blast two million tonnes of volcanic rock out of the Rangitoto Channel to allow modern container ships to visit.

Against shifting north: what the opponents say

  • Opponents say the move is not positive, that it would move freight further away from the businesses and consumers it is destined for
  • That the benefits of shifting the port to Marsden Point have been oversold
  • The costs of shifting the port to Marsden Point have been undersold
  • The relocation makes little economic or logistical sense
  • Building appropriate roading between Auckland city and Northport would cost billions of dollars, compromising the rest of New Zealand's road network
  • Moving Auckland Port's 300,000-cars annual imports to Northport will wipe the former's biggest income earner
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