Auckland’s Mayor is fuming at a new report that recommends moving the city’s port to Northland – but he’s not the only one with questions, Dileepa Fonseka reports
Leaked details of a report on Auckland’s port suggests closing the port with no compensation for Auckland Council, and Phil Goff isn’t taking the suggestion lying down.
“The threat that they’d pass legislation and nationalise the port and take it away from us, that’s not good enough,” Goff said.
Information from the report – the second on the future of Auckland’s port from the Upper North Island Supply Chain Working Group – a group chaired by former Far North Mayor Wayne Brown – was leaked to TVNZ over the weekend and is currently being considered by Cabinet.
It concludes the council would retain valuable waterfront land and says that should be compensation enough for Auckland Council.
“Of course we’ve still got the land, we bloody own the land,” Goff said.
He added that in their second report the working group had also admitted to a number of negative effects, not present in an earlier version released this year:
“What they did say in the second report was that moving the port to Northland would have a negative impact on the environment and transport costs.”
Transport Minister Phil Twyford too, has questions: “There’s a number [of questions] actually that have been brought out by the study.”
But NZ First MP Shane Jones believes there is “a great case” for the move and Finance Minister Grant Robertson said he was keeping an open mind regarding a potential shift north.
“This is a huge decision for New Zealand about where a port like this would be located, it needs to be a decision that’s made not just about one port but about the whole supply chain in the upper North Island.”
The report recommends the Auckland council-owned port be shifted 150km north from Auckland’s CBD to Northland.
It prices the move at $10 billion with a new 18km rail line needing to be built to connect Northport to the main rail line running between Northland and Auckland.
And if the Government and the port can’t get Auckland Council – which owns the port – to agree to such a move within 12 months it recommends Government force it through with legislation.
Goff said Auckland Council had invested $600m in the port and it returned a dividend of $50m a year.
“You’re intending to take this company and give no compensation to the owners of the company which happen to be all of the people to Auckland,” Goff said.
“I can’t think of a time in my lifetime where that’s happened.”
Robertson said he wasn’t surprised by Goff’s expectation of compensation in the event of a move.
“Whether or not that happens is significantly further down the track.”
Twyford said the report, currently before Cabinet, was just one in a “long line” of studies on the port’s future.
“Almost all of the stakeholders agree Auckland won’t continue forever to be a major inland port, it’s a question of the timeframe and what our options are.”
National leader Simon Bridges said the idea of moving the port was “a good question to ask”, but there were plenty of problems that would need to be dealt with for it to be a success.
“I don’t think they will deliver this – there will be lots of talk, there will be lots of Shane Jones’ hot air but not a lot else.”