$100 million northern railway upgrade spurs controversy

MERRA committee member Stuart Windross says the railway upgrade is “just the ticket.”

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Regional Development Minister Shane Jones last week announced a nearly $100 million investment to revive the railway between Auckland and Whangarei, but the response has been mixed.

The planned work will include replacing or upgrading almost a third of the line, maintenance work on 13 tunnels, replacing five aging bridges and improving numerous drains and culverts.

The 181km line runs from Auckland to Helensville, through Kaipara Flats, Wellsford, Topuni, Kaiwaka, Maungaturoto and up to Whangarei.

KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller said decades of decline had caused damage that would have closed the rail line for business within a year.

“Currently, 95 per cent of the freight in Northland is moved by road and the improvements to the North Auckland line (NAL) are the foundation for addressing that imbalance.”

Logistics industry magnates Don Braid, of Mainfreight, and former Whangarei Mayor Stan Semenoff, of Semenoff Transport, both came out in support of the upgrade, saying their companies would investigate using rail transport solutions.

But Northland MP Matt King says the announcement shows the government doesn’t have its transport investment priorities straight.

“Rail is not commercially viable, and to throw money at it when 99 per cent of freight movement in the north is by road shows a complete disregard for common sense. Rail cannot compete with trucks, and businesses demonstrate this by voting with their feet,” he says.

“It’s pretty telling that despite much-needed state highway improvements, road is still the first choice for transport in and out of Northland. Unlike the Government, National is prepared to invest in a four-lane highway from Warkworth to Whangarei.”

Rodney Local Board member Colin Smith, whose town of Wellsford sits directly on the line, also says investment in rail is not practical.

Mr Smith points to the fact that cargo transported on trains still has to be loaded and unloaded to be moved by trucks on either end, which is inefficient and not necessarily an improvement on the industry’s carbon footprint.

“If they had any brains they would pull the rail out and turn that corridor into a highway for trucking. It would take all the trucks off the road and, thanks to a flatter incline, could have goods transported to and from Auckland within two hours.

“We are talking about the 21st century, not the 18th century. That rail was put in 100 years ago during the war when we didn’t have decent roads.”

But the rail upgrade has been welcomed by the Mahurangi East Residents and Ratepayers Association (MERRA), which has been lobbying for rail solution for transporting waste to and from Waste Management’s proposed Dome Valley landfill.

MERRA committee member Stuart Windross says the railway upgrade is “just the ticket.”

“Given the upgrade, we expect Kiwirail and Waste Management to work together to help take 451 return trips worth of trucks off the road.”

Stuart says once an application for a resource consent for the landfill has been made, MERRA will advocate for rail in subsequent hearings.

“The fuel burn is 20,000 litres per day for the rubbish trucks on the road. It’s my understanding that rail could reduce that by 65 per cent.”

KiwiRail says it aims to complete the majority of the NAL work within the next year.

Moana Chief – media release from Pacifica

Pacifica are proud to announce that our new vessel Moana Chief, sailed into Auckland this week on her delivery voyage to begin a new life dedicated to the NZ coast.
We plan to phase her into service this week commencing with voyage 4132 departing Auckland Friday 20 September which will coincide with the departure of Spirit of Canterbury.
The Moana Chief brings over 50% greater capacity than SPOC (1700 teu Vs 1100 teu) and will operate on the same fixed day weekly schedule ;
rotating Auckland →Lyttleton →Nelson →Tauranga .
Pacifica’s introduction of additional capacity is a significant investment and commitment from our parent company Swire , and is a response to the growing demand for reliable access to the “Blue Highway” connecting key North & South Island ports .


As N.Z’s only dedicated weekly coastal carrier Pacifica are uniquely placed to offer a sustainable year-round solution for your wharf/wharf or door/door FCL shipments.
We also take this opportunity to pay tribute to the mighty SPOC for years of dependable service ; she never missed a beat during the hundreds of voyages around N.Z and we wish her continued smooth sailings in her next deployment.

Pacifica Shipping to upgrade with larger vessel

Wednesday, 7 August 2019, 8:29 pm
Press Release: Swire Shipping

Increased tonnage to meet rising coastal and international transhipment demand

New Zealand – Pacifica Shipping today confirmed that it has acquired a larger 1700 teu vessel for deployment on its premium coastal shipping service in New Zealand. The MV Moana Chief – which is expected to commence operations formally in September 2019 – will meet growing domestic and international transhipping cargo demand. Pacifica was acquired by The China Navigation Company (CNCo) – parent of Swire Shipping – in 2014.

Swire has been a long-term and active participant in New Zealand’s maritime and transport industry. The first Swire vessel called to New Zealand some 130 years ago. Today, Swire Shipping and Swire Bulk currently operate multiple liner and bulk vessels per month, connecting New Zealand to Australia, Asia, North America, Papua New Guinea, Pacific Islands and the rest of the world. For more information, please visit https://www.swirecnco.com

Brodie Stevens, Country Manager, Swire New Zealand, said: “With the acquisition and an increase in tonnage from 1,100 to 1,700 teu, we strongly believe Pacifica will be in a good position to meet rising domestic cargo and transhipment demand. We want to expand the range of valuable domestic transport solutions currently already provided by Pacifica, and this will enable us to do so. Coastal shipping in New Zealand continues to play an important part in the country’s domestic economy. It is also highly complementary with road and rail networks.”

According to a report by Deloitte in 2016, 236 million tonnes of freight are moved within New Zealand annually. The size of container ships has been increasing. Coastal shipping will continue to play a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions per container, and will also be a factor in New Zealand manufacturers’ decarbonisation of their supply chains.

Additionally, New Zealand’s domestic freight volumes are forecast to more than double by 2040, as stated in The National Freight Demand Study 2008, and confirmed again in the NFDS update, completed in 2014 – “Even with massive investment in land transport this increase could not be accommodated by road and rail alone. By growing coastal shipping, New Zealand can take a load off the other transport modes and contribute to a more efficient land transport network. By comparison, in Japan, a country with a similar geography, more than 30% of freight is carried by sea.”

Details of the acquisition are confidential.

Proposal to rid Ports of Auckland of cars to create public waterfront space

The “jewel” of Auckland’s waterfront real estate may soon be opened up for public use, as the council looks into a plan to rid the Ports of Auckland of the thousands of cars it stores.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson are investigating a proposal to use barges to transport imported cars loaded off container ships at the ports to a location in South Auckland.

For decades, both Captain Cook and Bledisloe wharves have stored up to 300,000 cars annually, as a rotating fleet of new vehicles are temporarily left there for two or three days before trucks can freight them off to car yards.

This week, Goff told the Weekend Herald a submission was being considered from New Zealand logistics company PTS Group to barge the cars stored at PoAL up the Tāmaki estuary south to PTS’ own Highbrook car depot.

“I think the really exciting idea is to barge the cars off the wharf and we know that can be done. We know there are sites they can be barged to,” Goff said.

“That requires some level of investment in various things, dredging and so on.

“But what it would do is it would enable us potentially to get the cars off the wharf on the day they arrive. So you’ve got a much faster throughput.”

A single barge would transport 250 cars from the wharf at a time, while the remainder could potentially be stored in a new five-storey parking building about to be completed on Bledisloe Wharf facing onto Quay St.

An electric barge with zero emissions is the desired option for Goff and PoAL, much like the first electric tug-boat purchased by the ports this week.

A single barge could make two trips between Highbrook and PoAL each day and, according to a PoAL estimate, remove 100 truck journeys away from the centre city.

Goff said a two-year timeframe to implement the barge proposal was realistic.

“If the study shows barging is a serious option and we should pursue it, we’d want to do that within the space of a couple of years. We’re not going to muck around on that,” he said.

Goff said PTS Group already took 80 per cent of the used cars from Auckland wharves to its Highbrook property and “obviously they could potentially do more”.

“If it were to be to Highbrook, that’s an area that’s in the south where most of the vehicle processing work takes place,” Goff said.

“It gets the trucks and the traffic off the city to Highbrook interchange, which is the most congested part of the motorway [SH1]. That’s one of the options that clearly the ports would be looking at.”

PTS could not be reached for comment.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says barging cars off the Ports of Auckland to free up space could be reality within two years. Photo / File
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says barging cars off the Ports of Auckland to free up space could be reality within two years. Photo / File

Removing the cars from Captain Cook and Bledisloe wharves would have a number of independent benefits, Goff said.

For a start, it would enable Bledisloe Wharf to be converted to allow mega cruise ships to moor there.

That would prevent the need for two proposed mooring dolphin extensions to adjacent Queens Wharf at a ballooning cost of $16.9 million, and a contracting life span of 15 years.

“My preference in an ideal world would be to utilise Bledisloe because it involves no further intrusion into the harbour, as the Captain Cook wharf would need to be extended either with mooring buoys or the wharf itself being extended,” Goff said.

“So, if that were possible, that would resolve a long-term issue in terms of access of cruise ships.”

Imported cars lined up at the Ports of Auckland on the Captain Cook Wharf in front of Queens Wharf. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Imported cars lined up at the Ports of Auckland on the Captain Cook Wharf in front of Queens Wharf. Photo / Jason Oxenham

PoAL chief executive Tony Gibson said PoAl “welcomes this challenge from the Mayor” to speed up clearing cars off the wharves, despite already running “an extremely efficient car handling operation by world standards”.

“We have been looking at barging as an option, so we are pleased to have the mayor’s backing to take this investigation to the next stage,” Gibson said.

Ultimately, Goff envisions the proposal would then leave Captain Cook wharf free for potential public space.

Up to 300,000 imported cars are stored at the Ports of Auckland annually. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Up to 300,000 imported cars are stored at the Ports of Auckland annually. Photo / Jason Oxenham

“Captain Cook wharf obviously we would like to bring back into the public realm in some way,” Goff said.

“The critical thing for me on the port is to allow public access again to the water’s edge.

“For 100 years we’ve had the red fence [barring the ports along Quay St], we’ve had the industrial use of the port, that’s why ports were always created in the centre of the city.

“But over time you can see the port area becoming the jewel in the crown of the city. A range of things have been put up. Archimedia have put up an idea. Another group has talked about a waterfront stadium.

“Not all of those ideas will run but we need a process where we engage with Aucklanders and say, what do you most want to see happen on your wharf.”

An artist's impression of a proposed Auckland waterfront stadium on Bledisloe Wharf. Photo / Supplied
An artist’s impression of a proposed Auckland waterfront stadium on Bledisloe Wharf. Photo / Supplied

Transport network plans laid out to support Auckland’s future development

The Supporting Growth programme has achieved a significant planning milestone with the publication of new indicative transport network maps for Auckland’s future growth areas.

The Indicative Strategic Transport Networkplans identify what transport projects are needed over the next 10-30 years to support the development of new communities, employment and industrial areas in Warkworth, north, northwest and south Auckland.

The plans are developed by Te Tupu Ngātahi (the Supporting Growth Alliance), a collaboration between Auckland Transport and the NZ Transport Agency, with consultants Beca, AECOM, Bell Gully and Buddle Findlay, to plan ahead and provide certainty to the community and stakeholders about what transport networks will be developed over the next few decades, in line with Auckland Council’s land use planning.

The NZ Transport Agency’s Director of Regional Relationships Steve Mutton says the plans aim to provide safe, accessible and sustainable travel choices that connect these new areas to the rest of the region and promote a greater use of public transport.

“The plans set out a shared vision by central and local government for long-term investment in Auckland’s future growth areas. It shows their commitment to working together over the next few decades to plan, fund and deliver a well-integrated transport network.”

“Publication of these plans will provide certainty for communities, developers, Auckland Council and other Crown agencies as they plan ahead for the development of new housing and employment areas.”
Auckland Transport Chief Executive Shane Ellison says the Supporting Growth Alliance is a culmination of investigations and engagement with partners, stakeholders and communities over a number of years.

“Aucklanders have told us they’re looking for more public transport, walking and cycling connections and they’re integral in our long term planning.”

The programme is a key initiative under the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), which sets the strategic direction for Auckland’s transport network over the next 10 years and beyond. The Supporting Growth team’s next step is to undertake more detailed investigations and begin staged route protection processes across all areas over the next few years.

The Auckland Plan 2050 expects more than 130,000 new homes and 76,000 new jobs will be created in 15,000 hectares of land to be developed in the future urban growth areas of:

  • Warkworth
  • Silverdale, Wainui and Dairy Flat in north Auckland
  • Whenuapai, Redhills, Riverhead, Kumeu-Huapai in the north west
  • Pukekohe, Paerata, Drury and Takanini in the south. 

The Supporting Growth Alliance has partnered with Auckland Council, Mana whenua and KiwiRail to develop the indicative network plans. Key stakeholders and local communities have also been engaged throughout the development of the plans, and more opportunities for engagement are planned later this year and over the next few years, as projects within each area are progressed.

Most of the projects identified in the indicative networks are expected to be constructed over the longer term, in line with the anticipated rezoning and development of land by Auckland Council. The projects are yet to be prioritised for funding for delivery.

In the meantime, key projects that support growth in the short term are already funded and underway. These include:

  • Te Honohono ki Tai – Matakana Link Road in Warkworth 
  • The SH16 Safe Networks Programme project – Brigham Creek to Waimauku
  • Arterial connections in the North West (Redhills and Whenuapai)
  • Improvements to SH1 between Papakura and Drury, as part of the longer-term Papakura to Bombay Improvements project. 

Early estimates for the cost of transport improvements over the next 30 years to support the growth areas are in excess of $10bn, with funding to be secured from both public and private sources.

Further details about the Supporting Growth programme including detailed maps, project information and timelines is available at www.supportinggrowth.govt.nz

The Ports of Auckland says its dividend to the Super City will fall due to the cost of its investment plans

byStephen Forbes

The Ports of Auckland says the Auckland Council can expect a reduced dividend over the next two to three years as it pushes ahead with a major investment programme.

Auckland Council currently has 100% ownership of the port and it received an annual dividend from its shareholding of $51.1 million in the 2017/18 financial year.

But the port company has increased its debt by 30% since last year as part of an investment programme to increase its capacity and returns, despite the fact its long-term future hangs in the balance.

“We expect a reduced dividend stream [to Auckland Council] for the next two to three years, followed by an increased return in years after that as we get benefit from current investments,” Ports of Auckland spokesman Matt Ball says.

He says the investment programme includes container terminal automation, construction of a new car handling facility and investment in its new Waikato Freight Hub.

And according to the latest Auckland Council Group Performance Overview the port company has taken on more debt to pay for it.

“This investment has resulted in an increase in debt from $368.0 million to $479.7 million.”

The council report says this has been accompanied by a fall in container volumes due to “reduced terminal capacity during the automation works and the loss of a major contract”. While there has also been a drop in the number of cars being processed by the port due to lower car sales and the impact of new biosecurity measures.

It says such factors are likely to have an adverse impact on the Ports of Auckland’s net profit after tax for 2018/2019. But it says the capital investment by the Ports of Auckland will lead to added capacity and the outlook is projected to improve in 2021/22.

Ball says the report is an accurate reflection of where things are at for the Ports of Auckland.

The company unveiled its new Waikato Freight Hub last month. Ball says he can’t divulge the exact cost of the project for commercial reasons.

But he says the project has so far included the purchase of the 33 hectare site in 2016 and the completion of the first customer facility which has now been completed, as well as a new bridge for road access which is expected to be completed this year. He says there are also plans to construct rail sidings and additional customer facilities as required.

When asked about the port’s future in Auckland he refers to the company’s 30 year Master Plan was produced in 2017 and approved by Auckland Council in May last year.

“We’re basing everything we do on that master plan until we’re told otherwise. The plan is designed to fit with the idea of the port eventually moving, but it is also intended to allow us to keep the freight moving until then.”

The latest news on the Ports of Auckland’s capital investments follows a lot of political debate over its future in the City of Sails.

Auckland Mayoral candidate John Tamihere has called for the Ports of Auckland’s business operations to be privatised to help ease the financial burden faced by the city’s ratepayers.

Under his proposal released last month the Super City would still retain ownership of the land the port sits on and the new port owners would have to lease the land back from the council at a “credible commercial rate for up to 25 years”. They would also be expected to develop an agreed exit strategy.

While NZ First MP and Minister for Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones is continuing in his quest to see the Ports of Auckland’s operation’s north to Whangarei. He says connecting Northport to rail and enabling it to service Auckland-bound freight would make a major contribution to the region’s economic development.

Last month Jones released a new report by consultants AECOM New Zealand and Deloitte on the feasibility of upgrading Northland’s rail network to allow it to happen. The business case was produced for the Ministry of Transport and paid for by the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) and says upgrading the Northland rail network and building a new rail spur from the main line to Northport would cost $1.3 billion.

Mike Lee – City Rail Link billion dollar blow-out: Twyford & Goff asleep at the switch

I don’t often include any personal comment with our news items, and to be honest I haven’t always been a fan of Mike Lee, but as an Auckland resident since the mid ’90’s, and a fan of rail for public transport, I thought the guest blog comment below was worth including. The stupid fixation by the two Phils on trams to the airport instead of the logical extension of our heavy rail network really is beyond belief. Phil Twyford is showing as much nous with the transport portfolio as he is with housing. Time to hand it to someone who actually understands how things work, and with some vision.

That’s my rant for today. Mike Lee’s guest blog post follows.

Dave Anderson

Who us?

The announcement of a billion dollar cost blow-out for the City Rail Link (CRL), 3 years after start of construction, is deeply troubling. At $3.4b, that is $1b per km, the CRL was already going to be one of the most expensive rail tunnels in the world. Now the price has shot up to $4.4b ($2.2b from ratepayers) with completion pushed back to 2024. Troubling also, given Auckland Council’s level of debt which is approaching $8.5b, close to the borrowing limits recommended by the international credit agencies.

Furthermore $4.4b is an estimate – there is no guarantee that the price will not go even higher. One insider suggested to me the final cost could, as he put it “have 5 or 6” in front of it. He was talking billions of dollars course.

Council bureaucrats have responded to the increase by recommending the sale of city car parking buildings (parking earned Auckland Transport $50m last year).  As most Aucklanders know, selling income-earning assets to plug a hole in the budget is a foolish strategy. Apart from the likelihood of monopoly control of city parking, it should also be borne in mind that the CRL won’t be cheap to operate.  If Auckland Council sells its income earning assets, as it did last year with the ARC Diversified Investment Asset portfolio, which earned ratepayers on average $23m per annum, where will the extra money come from to pay the operating costs?

In 2016 the Key National Government after agreeing to back the City Rail Link had its assessors review the project. They recommended that the CRL build should be taken off Auckland Transport and that the two parties funding the project, that is the NZ Government and Auckland Council, should directly oversee it.  A sensible idea in principle. A Crown entity was duly set up, CRL Ltd, under the chairmanship of Wellington-based Brian Roche (now Sir Brian), former PwC partner and most recently CEO of NZ Post, along with a board of largely anonymous directors.

On the face of it, this should have enabled transparency and clear accountability lines back to the funders.  That was the plan, but with the departure of CRL champion Mayor Len Brown and his replacement by Phil Goff, the CRL went off the political radar.  Newly-elected Goff had his own trophy project to push, light rail to the airport. But then with the election of the Labour-NZ First government, no doubt to Goff’s relief, responsibility for this poorly conceived scheme (three years on and still no business case) was famously adopted by his former colleague, Transport Minister Phil Twyford – who for good measure added another, light rail to Kumeu, which together Twyford boasted would be ‘the biggest transport project in New Zealand’s history’. (Think KiwiBuild on wobbly wheels.)

Any way, call it what you like, ‘eyes off the ball’, ‘asleep at the switch’, the CRL project from that time on has been drawn virtually zero political interest, from those at the top, let alone oversight.

Whatever the talents and experience of Sir Brian and his directors in building rail tunnels, what has been missing here has been the active oversight of the shareholders, the government and the council, meaning the people who represent the public who are paying for it. I have only seen Sir Brian twice at the council since his appointment in 2016 before he appeared again last month to ask for another half a billion dollars from Auckland ratepayers.

Meanwhile the CRL first stage ‘cut and cover’ making its painfully slow way up the first 400 metres of Albert Street a year behind schedule, is still not finished, to the consternation of Albert Street retailers, the Stamford Plaza hotel and commuters in that part of the city.  Despite this, a few weeks ago Minister Twyford announced that the NZ Superannuation Fund as part of his ‘City Centre to Māngere Light Rail’ scheme was investigating a parallel tram tunnel up Queen Street just 150m away. I am not making this up. In Mr Twyford we clearly have a transport minister who really doesn’t understand or care much for rail, given his obstinate refusal to even consider a 7km rail extension to Auckland Airport, and his opposition to the extension of train services on the existing line to Kumeu.

Because of the totally deficient amount of financial information given to councillors, I declined to vote for the extra half billion dollars. Instead I won support for an amendment calling on the government as the lead agency to increase its contribution to the proportion it funds projects in Wellington.

Let me be clear, from my time as chairman of the ARC, I have been a leading proponent of the CRL which I believe to be vital strategic infrastructure for Auckland. However its construction should not be seen as an opportunity for the ratepayers and taxpayers to be ripped off by the usual suspects.  Well behind schedule, and well over budget the City Rail Link project is symptomatic of what is wrong with Auckland – poor leadership at the top. Auckland deserves better than this.

What’s happening with Auckland’s port?

No caption

Photo: Patrik Stedrak/ 123rf

Everyone seems to have an opinion about its future –  the cars should be moved to Northport; the whole operation should all be moved and replaced with a stadium, apartments and parks; the city wants it to stay; Auckland needs the income.

The port supports 700 workers and another 160,000 jobs are estimated to hang on the port’s operations, including freight forwarding businesses.

A working group is due to report back to the government this month on the future of freight forwarding in the upper North Island. Creating a vehicle importing hub at Northport is one of a dozen options it is looking at. The group will give more detailed costings and recommendations in September.

The NZ Herald’s Auckland specialist Simon Wilson says the port is outgrowing its site and in 20 years will have to start thinking about moving – the move might take 50 years.

In 2017 the Ports came up with its own 30-year-master plan for its future. Chief executive Tony Gibson says it’s what the city wants but critics say they’d prefer parks, public space, or developments that will return more money for the prized waterfront land.

Despite opposition, the Auckland Council backed the plan and the Ports is pressing ahead with plans that include a new carpark.

The Ports’ latest interim report, for the six months to December last year, shows the number of cars through the port fell nearly 17 percent to 124,000 compared with the same period the previous year.

POAL blames declining car sales and the arrival of the brown marmorated stink bug on vehicle ships from Japan. The pest is a major threat to horticulture and steps taken to keep the bug out disrupted vehicle imports.

But Wilson says the transition to electric cars will also make a big difference to the Ports’ operations. One of the explanations for the current dip in imports is because people are waiting till the next wave of technology makes electric cars cheaper.

Wilson says we don’t know what will happen with the future of electric cars – we may even be able to manufacture them ourselves with 3D printing.

Sending cars to Northport just outside of Whangarei city is a pet project for New Zealand First.

It got a bit of a nudge last week when Kiwirail was urged by the government to apply for funds to fix Northland’s ageing railway lines. Winston Peters, when questioned about the damage to State Highway One that would be done by dozens more trucks every day hauling cars south, said upgraded rail lines would solve that problem.

Wilson says moving the cars to Northport will not only boost the region but free up prized waterfront land.

He’d like to see a stadium or museum there – and says the return from a retail and residential development would bring in far more than the annual $50 million dividend the port pays its owner, Auckland Council, every year.

Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere proposes selling Ports of Auckland

Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere has proposed selling Ports of Auckland to a private company but keeping its waterfront land in public hands.

In his latest policy announcement, Tamihere today said the best way to future-proof the 77ha of prime waterfront land was to split the council-owned business from the land and go to market with the business.

Under his proposal, the new port owners would lease the land from council at a commercial rate for up to 25 years to develop an agreed exit strategy.

“The Ports must move, but exactly where it moves to will be part of ongoing discussions,” he said.

“But I have to give clarity and direction so we can all plan for the next 25 years.”

Mayor Phil Goff called his rival’s policy “bizarre”, saying it is the worst possible time to sell the port business when it has no clear future, nobody knows where it is going to move to and who will pay the cost of new infrastructure and relocation.

He was referring to a ports study set up by the Government to look at how the existing ports at Auckland, Marsden Point and Tauranga could be reconfigured to provide the best options for long-term growth.

The first of three progress reports from a working group in April suggested an inland port in west Auckland and a vehicle importing and servicing centre at Northport among a dozen potential transport investments to improve freight handling in the upper North Island.

The working group plans to report back to the Government in June with options and complete more detailed costings and recommendations in September.

“Who is going to buy the company when they don’t know where its operations will be in 10, 15, 25 years? It will be selling it at a bargain basement price,”Goff said.

Auckland Mayoral candidate John Tamihere. Photo / Dean Purcell
Auckland Mayoral candidate John Tamihere. Photo / Dean Purcell

Tamihere said a timely managed exit would open the Waitemata Harbour’s green footprint as well as provide a much-needed cash injection to ease ratepayers’ costs.

Other advantages would be to de-risk the costly relocation of the port, give council a financial stream from the leased land (council currently gets a dividend of about $50 million a year from the port), open up 77ha of land for ratepayers to decide its future, and establish a “transition fund” to support port workers into new jobs, he said.

Speaking to media about the policy, Tamihere did not know how much the port business could sell for, but suspected Ports of Tauranga will be “in boots and all” and interest would come form as far away as Singapore.

A Future Port Study commissioned by Auckland Council in 2016 found moving Ports of Auckland to a new “super port” in the Manukau Harbour or the Firth of Thames would cost $4 billion to $5.5b.

Tamihere said he has met major stakeholders, including port executives, the Maritime Union and transport groups to brief them on the policy. No one opposed it, he said.

He also raised the prospect of congestion charges for trucks using the port between working hours of 9am to 5pm to overcome “chronic ports traffic congestion”.

Imported cars lined up at the Ports of Auckland on the Captain Cook Wharf in front of Queens Wharf. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Imported cars lined up at the Ports of Auckland on the Captain Cook Wharf in front of Queens Wharf. Photo / Jason Oxenham

He said Auckland Transport forums and the major Ports carriers agree congestion is a major problem and are identifying ways to work through a self-regulatory system. Truckies will be in some difficulty initially but they get the transition, he said.

Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett said excluding heavy trucks from Auckland city between 9am and 5pm is lacking in strategy and planning, ridiculous and would have a negative impact on all New Zealanders.

“Mr Tamihere says the operations of the Ports of Auckland should move, but he has no idea where to. So, any move is many years away. In the interim, there seems to be this bizarre proposal to exclude heavy trucks from Auckland central business district (CBD) – where Ports of Auckland operates, between 9am and 5pm. He’s not sure what that truck exclusion will include.

“Why would you increase the costs of transporting goods in and out of New Zealand’s major city? This proposal would definitely add costs to all the goods in people’s lives that are transported by trucks – which is pretty much everything,” Leggett said.

Goff also slammed the idea of congestion charges during the day for trucks, saying the busiest time for truck movements was between 10am and 2pm outside of work hours.

“The policy is just not well thought out and totally counter-productive. It is making policy on the hoof,” he said.

Tamihere, who is mounting a serious challenge to Mayor Phil Goff’s bid for a second term, has already announced he will “shake up” the way council runs, turn Eden Park into the city’s main venue for sports and major events and sack the board of Auckland Transport.

Other mayoral candidates include businessman John Palino, who is standing for a third time, Joshua Love, John Lehmann and Craig Lord.

Lord has announced a policy to keep speedway at Western Springs and scrap plans to move cricket there. He also wants to make it easier for Eden Park to hold concerts.

Rail-centric view does Northland no favours

“The Upper North Island Supply Chain Study has focussed solely on rail and this does Northland no favours,” says Annabel Young, Executive Director of the NZ Shipping Federation, talking about the Interim Progress Report of the study group. “Their rail-centric view has blinded them to the opportunities available to Northport that are not dependent on rail.”

A dry dock in Whangarei would be a win-win for both the city and New Zealand as a whole; but in the interim report it gets a scant one-line mention. The lack of a dry dock is hurting this country due to the environmental and financial costs that have to be incurred when our coastal shipping operators are required to dry dock their vessels off-shore in Singapore or Australia. There are already cases where overseas ships are avoiding New Zealand due to the toxic combination of high biosecurity cleanliness requirements for a vessels hull and secondly, the inability to clean a ship in a dock that does not fit in the Devonport dry dock.

We note that the interim study assumes that cargo landed in Northport would need to be moved by rail which ignores the obvious possibility of movement by sea, as is done now in many other parts of the world using smaller domestic coastal ships and barges.

This first report sets up a paradigm where rail is deemed to be the only answer. The Federation believes it may be asking the wrong questions.

Notes

The New Zealand Shipping Federation began in 1906 and is the key representative body for New Zealand’s coastal ship operators.