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Port expansions taking too long, say exporters

Port expansions taking too long, say exporters

TAURANGA: The work that starts this week will widen the Port of Tauranga harbour entrance channel and deepen the shipping lane from 12.9 metres to 14.5m inside the harbour and to 15.8m outside.
Dredging will allow ships to enter the port 50 percent more laden than existing vessels.
But it took a four year legal battle to make this happen and exporters say this process was too slow, especially with a widened Panama Canal due to send ever-bigger ships into the Pacific Ocean.
Port company chief executive Mark Cairns said the work was essential if New Zealand was to keep building export capacity as the government wanted.
“This first stage of dredging will allow us to handle 6500 container vessels at low tide,” he said.
That contrasts with an average of 4500 containers per ship now and will be carried on ships around 300 metres long.
New Zealand Shippers Council chairman Mike Knowles applauds this, along with a similar development in Otago – but said it was all too hard to achieve.
“For Port of Tauranga it has taken four years and Port Chalmers has been the same just to get their consents approved, and they have paid quite a few million dollars in costs as well,” he said.
Mr Cairns said the process of getting approval for his port was extremely drawn out.
“It went through independent commissioners, and then it was appealed by three appellants,” he said.
“We had various Environment Court sessions, and Environment Court-mandated mediation.
“It was then appealed to the High Court, the High Court knocked out that appeal, one appellant sought leave to go to the Court of Appeal, which the High Court stopped,” said Mr Cairns.
Mike Knowles said there was a need for greater efficiency when it came to developing a port.
“It is a critical piece of infrastructure,” he said.