Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones says he’s expecting to receive a report in the next four to six weeks which could have major ramifications for the future of the Ports of Auckland.
The paper will be from the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy working group which the government established last year to look at the development and delivery of a freight and logistics in the country’s Upper North Island. It has also been tasked with investigating the feasibility of relocating the Ports of Auckland to Northport in Whangarei.
The group is being chaired by former Far North Mayor Wayne Brown and includes KiwiRail chairman Greg Miller, who Jones describes as an international expert in logistics, as well as Susan Krumdieck, Shane Vuletich, Sarah Sinclair and Noel Coom.
The New Zealand First MP says he remains committed to seeing Whangarei’s Northport grow and he’s keen to see the working group’s findings.
“Obviously the officials and ministers have to chew it over and no doubt further work will follow from it,” Jones says. “We need to be confident about what the options are. We’re very keen to see a transfer of economic activity from the Ports of Auckland further north. It was something we campaigned on, but the mathematical reality is we only got 7% of the vote so that means we can’t deliver everything in our manifesto.”
He says the working group report will also look at a number of other issues, including the Port of Tauranga, Northport, KiwiRail and access to the ports.
But Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the Ports of Auckland is an important asset for the council and the people of Auckland and any decision to move it or its operations shouldn’t be taken lightly.
He says it has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in it over the years and it returns a healthy dividend to the Auckland Council as its owner.
“We accept that at some point the growth of freight into Auckland will outgrow the land available for the Port,” Goff says. “We understand also that moving the Port will free up access to the foreshore and some valuable land that can be used to meet the needs of Aucklanders in other ways.
“However, the Port is also a critical lifeline of freight into our city which is vital to our social and economic well-being.
He says before the Ports of Auckland, or any of its operations are moved, it’s important that there’s a strong business case supporting it.
“That decision needs to be evidence, rather than politically, based and the costs of alternative infrastructure and the impact on the cost of goods reaching Auckland need to be carefully and objectively calculated.”
And he says before any agreement is reached it’s important that the Auckland Council, on behalf of the city, has its say.
“The decision needs to take into account the city, the region and the country’s best interests. I called for a regional port study long before the change in Government and I welcome the work being undertaken to demonstrate what the best outcome will be.
“As I said to the Port’s working group, this is a really serious exercise and all of us need to be confident that the assessment of alternative port sites is thorough, impartial and objective. That’s just common sense.”
Jones says he can understand Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s opposition to talk of moving the Ports of Auckland to Whangarei.