The government has released a major new report which is touting Manukau Harbour as the preferred option for relocating the Port of Auckland.
The report by economic consultancy Sapere considered five relocation options; Northport, Manukau, the Firth of Thames, the Port of Tauranga and a shared increase in capacity at both Northport and the Port of Tauranga.
Manukau Harbour was the highest ranked option, although consenting could be problematic.
An earlier report by the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy Independent Working Group had previously identified Northport as the preferred option.
No decision will be made before the election, leaving it for political parties to campaign on.
Associate Transport Minister and senior New Zealand First MP Shane Jones is on record saying his party supports the move to Northport and will campaign on it.
A study into moving the port was part of the Labour and New Zealand First coalition agreement.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Jones said any decision needs to be informed by policy analysis "that is still to be completed''.
"As a result it will be up to a future government to determine a preferred location," they said.
Officials from the Ministry of Transport, Treasury and the Provincial Development Unit within MBIE have been looking at five options for relocating the Port of Auckland.
Sapere's report was commissioned to inform this work.
Twyford said there are significant fiscal, economic, social and environmental implications to the decision.
"Because officials have been focused on Covid-19 response and recovery work they have not yet been able to provide advice on Sapere's assessment of the benefits, costs, risks and uncertainties associated with the options."
The key findings of the report include:
- The port's current downtown Auckland location has about 30 years' capacity and there is a 10-15 year window for making a final decision on relocation
- For all five options, engineering and consenting could be difficult
- Manukau Harbour was the highest ranked option, although consenting could be problematic
- The economic costs would outweigh the economic benefits for all the options, including Manukau.
Following the release of the Working Group's report late last year the Ministry, along with the Treasury and the Provincial Development Unit, were tasked with further work to inform a relocation decision.
Jones said at that time Cabinet noted the Ports of Auckland was not viable as the Upper North Island's key import port over the long term.
"This new report provides valuable insights that will help inform future decisions on this complex and significant issue," Jones said.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has welcomed the independent Sapere report, published today, which shows that neither Northport nor the Port of Tauranga are viable options for relocating the Ports of Auckland in the long-term.
"The Sapere report completely backs up my concerns and concerns raised by Auckland Council since the start of the Upper North Island port study led by Wayne Brown," Goff said.
"The Brown report started with a conclusion - wanting to move the Ports of Auckland to Northport - and worked backwards. It failed to engage with stakeholders and was quite frankly a shoddy opinion piece not based on facts,'' he said.
While the current port land needs to be returned to people of Auckland, Goff said it has to be done in a way that doesn't disadvantage anyone.
"It is my firm expectation that, following the election, the new government will immediately start work on a facts-based options analysis of the Manukau or the Firth of Thames,'' he said.