Prominent Aucklanders sign open letter opposing Ports of Auckland 35-year lease

2:04 pm on 25 March 2024
Ports of Auckland

Photo: RNZ / Kymberlee Fernandes

A group of prominent Aucklanders has signed a letter opposing a 35-year lease of Auckland's downtown port.

The letter, sent to Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown, says the lease of the city centre port location locks in unsustainable industrial activity until at least 2060.

Brown introduced the proposal for a 35-year lease of the port in Auckland's draft Long Term Plan.

The letter calls on councillors to vote against the proposal, and to transform the port location into a public waterfront, akin to the Viaduct and Wynard Quarter.

It has been signed by 30 people, including Sir Stephen Tindall, Lady Pippa Blake, Sir Ralph Norris, and Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick.

Titled 'Stop Stealing Our Harbour', the letter argues the lease would ignore the findings of the last three studies on the port's location, which conclude that its position in the CBD was unsustainable.

"As the recent Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter waterfront developments show, we can create enormous social, economic, and environmental value by transforming industrial port zones into thriving urban environments," the letter reads.

"Locking the port into its current location until at least 2060 removes any possibility of replicating these rewards at the eastern end of our waterfront within our lifetimes."

Stop Stealing Our Harbour campaign spokesperson Michael Goldwater said the city centre location could not support the port's growth.

"The problem with having the port right in the heart of the city is that you've got multiple pressures. The port will eventually grow because of the population growth, but there's nowhere for it to go.

"The port has lost it's social license to keep on filling in the harbour to infinity, which is sort of what it's been doing for 150 years."

The port placed pressure on the transport network, and took up space with potential to be used for housing or as a public space, he said.

"I think the key factor is actually the opportunity costs of having the port right in the heart of the centre, essentially in our most valuable piece of land that we have."

Comment has been sought from Ports of Auckland and Brown.

Stop Stealing Our Harbour spokesperson Julie Stout, chair of Urban Auckland, told Midday Report a 35-year lease would lock in industrialisation of the waterfront location.

The group did agree with the mayor on some fronts - such as the staged release of wharves for cruise and other activities. But Stout said their contention was around the lack of a long-term plan for relocating the port out of the city centre.

"We want to see long-term plans for the relocation of all or part of the port activities in place before a lease is signed on the land, especially with a foreign company," she said.

"The port does have to move in 20 to 25 years, and even the Ports of Auckland acknowledge this, so addressing that long-term issue has fallen off the radar."

A 2019 Government study, chaired by Brown, concluded the port's current location was unsustainable and recommended shifting it to Whangārei.

Stout said the government needed to step in to make the direction of the port's future clear. She said the port location was one of Auckland's most valuable assets, and wanted it used for commercial and social benefit - but those benefits would be locked up by a 35-year lease.

"In the long term, it's going to be such a huge asset for all of Aucklanders, and we don't want to see basically an industrial estate remaining in the centre of our harbour."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs