Nation ‘$1b poorer’ if port leaves Auckland

With a working group’s third report on Port of Auckland’s future not available to the public, others are pushing ahead with their own analysis, Dileepa Fonseka reports.

A third port study will go before a Cabinet committee on Wednesday but on Tuesday Finance Minister Grant Robertson gave a clear indication it wouldn’t be enough on its own to persuade him to support moving Auckland’s port to Northland.

“The report’s a useful contribution, but as I’ve said to you previously, I’ve got further questions I want answered.”

“This is a massive, massive move we’re talking about here. So you know, we’ll go through the process, but we haven’t made a decision to do it.”

Meanwhile another report into the future of Auckland’s port has been released. 

The NZEIR report calculates New Zealand would be $1b poorer if the Port of Auckland’s functions were taken up by either Northport or Tauranga. 

“Auckland is both the largest source of import demand in New Zealand, and the largest concentration of commercial activity,” says the report.

“An equally profitable port elsewhere, employing the same number of people, would have a similar direct effect on its local economy, but its wider economic effect would depend on how efficiently their customers’ exports and imports moved from the port to their doors.”

The use of diesel trains to transport goods from Northport to Auckland would emit 121,461 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. 

“Longer and more frequent road or rail trips would be required to bring imports to their ultimate destination or to the port for exporting.”

Most of the costs of relocating the port would be borne by Auckland in terms of reduced consumption, higher prices, and longer wait times for freight. 

People and businesses in New Zealand’s largest city would see the cost of their imports go up by $549m if port operations moved to Northland or $626m if port operations moved to Tauranga, the report says. 

But the rest of the country would see the cost of their imports go down if the port’s business was taken up by Port of Tauranga or Northport.

Economist Laurence Kubiak, who authored the report, said this was because other ports, like Centreport in Wellington for example, would import more and goods would have to travel a shorter distance to get to consumers in those areas. 

Anticipating the report’s release 

Both Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones and Upper North Island Supply working group chair Wayne Brown told Newsroom last week they were looking forward to a possible release of the full report this week after Cabinet deliberations.

After details of the report leaked, Auckland’s Mayor Phil Goff has bristled at its reported suggestion POAL could be taken off Auckland Council with only waterfront space as compensation, and Jones has called POAL CEO Tony Gibson a “recreant” – cowardly renegade – after details emerged that Jones warned Gibson not to put his head in a “political noose” by going up against NZ First on the port issue. 

Others have expressed concern at the mode shift that would be required from shippers of freight – who have been favouring trucks in greater numbers – in order to make a Northport option work. 

Supporters have lined up behind moving the port from its current location in Central Auckland too. 

RNZ reported former Prime Ministers John Key and Helen Clark were backing a “Waterfront 2029” to get rid of POAL and The New Zealand Herald reported National MP Nikki Kaye had expressed a preference for moving the port but wanted to explore a number of options including the Firth of Thames.

Andrew Dickens: Ports of Auckland debate misses the point

Andrew Dickens, Publish Date Wed, 27 Nov 2019, 9:49AM

Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

Moving the Ports of Auckland is a no-brainer, it’s just a pity that all the discussion so far has no brain and based on the wrong things.

On Tuesday Northland Regional Council’s new chairwoman Penny Smart said relocating Auckland’s port to Northport at Marsden Point will bring strong economic benefit for the region.

No kidding Sherlock. If we just upped the port to Northland then Northland will win even if the idea is a total economic disaster for New Zealand Inc and the entire import/export sector. It also reeks of the limited thinking that all we have to do is just up the port and move it.

This followed the launch of a social media campaign on Monday which gathered the support of Helen Clark and John Key. Mr Key said it was a sensible idea to move the port to Northland while Ms Clark wombled on about the waterfront for the people. Trevor Mallard hopped on the bus as well

If I was a bitchy man I’d say that Mr Key lives in the suburb beside the port, Ms Clark lives beside a football stadium she like to see on the waterfront and Mr Mallard is the guy who first thought of the stadium on the port land. Of course they want it gone. None of their statements were enough to convince me to move to Marsden.

Then we get Mayor Phil Goff on Tuesday saying he wants the Port moved so the people of Auckland can get access to the waterfront. Again not good enough a reason.

Then we’ve got all the people who chant the waterfront should not be a carpark due to the used car import business. Which is true but the least of New Zealand’s problem with this port. The hub of the problem lies to the East of the cars with a port whose size and scale dwarfs the import of 250,000 cars a year.

The Fergusson Container Terminal is Australasia’s third biggest. Reclamation began in the 60s and it cranked up in the 70s. It’s hit expansion capacity in just 50 years. Someone then should’ve known better. It’s a 4 lane Harbour Bridge scenario all over again.

The container port handles 60% of New Zealand’s imports and 40% of its exports. Half of our economy is tied up in that expanse of concrete and as the country grows it’s capacity relatively shrinks. So much so that the Port will be at full capacity in just a few years.

There’s only one reason why we have to move the Port. It’s TOO SMALL. When it’s full half our economy will start to fail. Why do I hear no-one talking about that?

The Northport cheerleaders are doing a terrible job. Slyly ignoring the costs other than just building some wharves and a spur line. Ignoring the transition costs on road and rail links and inland ports and cross Auckland freight avenues.  Ignoring the infrastructure construction capacity constraints. 

Ignoring Whangarei’s capacity to absorb the growth.

Auckland’s port affects a third of the city’s economy. 600 people are employed directly but 200,000 other jobs are directly tied to the port.

Ready for those people to move north, Whangarei?  Got the houses, schools and health care facilities? And the water and waste infrastructure?

Meanwhile Auckland, are you ready to lose this bedrock of your economy?

The only people who have made any sense in this whole thing so far are Steven Joyce and the Government who realise this is a holistic, nationally critical decision with implications for every part of our economy and our infrastructure and our national investment for the next half a century and beyond.

This whole thing is way above the pay grade of some local body politicians, anyone from New Zealand First who have too much skin in the game, same for CEOs of port companies, activists and former politician’s who want to meddle.

Meanwhile what would I start doing tomorrow?

For me the first thing to do is to get a dedicated rail line from the port to the inland facility in Wiri to get as many containers and cars off the wharves as soon as possible to extend the port’s life while we make a transition.

But here’s the thing on that. The only route is Hobson Bay. The home of the Remuera Nimby.

This is a monumental cock up 60 years in the making.

David Farrar: My stance on Ports of Auckland

I have long been of the view that using prime waterfront land in both Auckland and Wellington as an industrial port is not in the best interests of either city.

It was logical for the ports to be there scores of years ago as back then there was no other significant use of waterfront areas. But today in modern cities waterfront areas adjacent to the CBD are the most highly sought after areas for restaurants, bars, hotels and recreation spaces.

So I support the Ports of Auckland moving from its current location.

But that doesn’t mean politicians deciding where it should move to and/or closing it down in favour of other ports.

What I would support is the Auckland Council splitting the land and operations of the Port Company in two. They take back the land and lease it to the Ports of Auckland for say a final 20 year term. Maybe 15, maybe 25. The key thing is you have a definite deadline for the Port to move.

This is a decision that Auckland Council should make. Firstly because they own Ports of Auckland and have property rights over it. They should not be legislated over by central Government. Secondly because as the governing body of Auckland they have an interest in turning the waterfront land into something more exciting.

So that is all that needs to and should happen. Then Ports of Auckland will make commercial decisions about what to do – ranging from a new operation in Firth of Thames to working with the Whangarei or Tauranga ports.

But what the Government should not do is commit the taxpayer to $10 billion spending in order to help Shane Jones win a seat by declaring it will move to Whangarei.

I am very dubious that Whangarei can go from one container ship a week to 10 ships a week. Even if it could, it is highly doubtful ship companies would choose to use it over Tauranga. And you can’t even be sensible about Whangarei unless you commit to four laning SH1 up there.

Also Politik makes the point that shipping companies want to use ports that can balance export and import loads. So the talk of Whangarei is desperate stuff to try and win Jones a seat.

If the Government decides it can dictate what happens, it could end in disaster. Our exporters and importers could face huge delays and costs.

So by all means Auckland Council should set a deadline for Ports of Auckland to move from the waterfront. There is better use for that land. But it should be the ports companies working with exporters and importers who decide on future locations, not Phil Twyford and Shane Jones.

Steven Joyce: Plan to move port north to Whangārei just doesn’t stack up

Steven Joyce05:00, Nov 24 2019

OPINION: The case for moving the Auckland port to Whangārei is apparently compelling. So compelling in fact that none of us are yet allowed to see it.

The final report of three in what appears to be a very long softening up exercise was received by the Government around a fortnight ago – and it won’t be released until Cabinet has decided on it. In the meantime we’ve been treated to a round of name calling. The study’s lead author is reportedly calling people who disagree with him ‘idiots’ and ‘vested interests’, while chief lobbyist for the idea, Shane Jones, labels the current port CEO a cowardly renegade.

Respected economists NZIER and Castalia have provided critiques of the proposal, based on the earlier reports. While funded by the current port (cue vested interests attack), they highlight many useful questions like the vulnerability of the proposed new land transport corridors, the big increase in transport emissions caused by the shift, and the true costs involved (over $10 billion).

Northport, near Whangārei, could be set for expansion if plans to move Auckland port activity to the northern city.
SUPPLIED Northport, near Whangārei, could be set for expansion if plans to move Auckland port activity to the northern city.

They rightly ask why Whangarei is the favoured location now when just three years ago it ranked 12th most suitable, according to the last port study that used the same set of consultants.

More basically there is a straightforward reason why we shouldn’t attempt to shift Auckland’s port to Whangārei, and that is geography. It is simply the wrong location.

Firstly, it is too far away. The whole point of ports in port cities is to unload and load the freight close to the action, to reduce land transport costs and delays. Much of the freight that comes across the current port is utilised within 20km of it, much of that south of the Waitemata. Being close makes sense. Berthing it hours away and freighting it in by truck and train doesn’t.

Yes, Sydney and Melbourne shifted their ports, but nothing like as far. Sydney’s container port at Port Botany is 15 kilometres from their CBD. Melbourne’s container terminal is 8km from the CBD. If this project went ahead, Auckland’s port would be over 150km from the CBD.

The second geographic problem is the shape of Auckland city. It is built on a narrow piece of land just a few kilometres wide, hemmed in by two beautiful harbours which, as Aucklanders know, already make it hard to get to work each day.

Imagine instead of all the freight landing by sea near the middle of the city and radiating out from there – you land it out the opposite side of the city from where most people live and work and then use trucks and trains to freight it back down from the north and through the narrow isthmus across already over-worked land transport corridors to places like Onehunga, Wiri, and further south.

We would experience a whole new level of road and rail congestion in the north and west, and no reduction in the centre or south.

The third geographic issue relates to the area south of Auckland. Fully half of New Zealand’s population (roughly 2½ million) lives north of Taupō, around a million outside of Auckland. Only 180,000 of those live in Northland. Currently businesses serving the upper North Island have the choice of two ports each roughly 120km from Hamilton, and competition helps keep freight prices reasonable.

Shifting one of them 150km further away over the other side of Auckland would effectively reduce their options to one, and undoubtedly increase their costs.

It simply makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to reduce the competitiveness of Auckland and the upper North Island in this way.

Northland definitely needs infrastructure investment. It was shamefully ignored for decades. The last government started with the four-laning of State Highway 1 to Warkworth (under construction) and Wellsford (currently abandoned). There was the much-maligned replacement of one-way bridges – four of which have been or are being built, and upgrades to the highways north of Whangārei.

The infrastructure required in Northland doesn’t rely on the excuse of an ill-conceived plan to shift Auckland’s port. The most significant project, the four-laning of State Highway 1 to Whangārei needs to happen anyway, especially through the vulnerable choke points of Dome Valley and Te Hana. Building that over the next 10 years would unlock massive development opportunities for all of Northland, just as the Waikato Expressway has done for its region.

So I have a suggestion. Let’s re-start the Northland expressway project and maybe even start shifting the Navy up to Whangārei (which has far fewer ramifications for the wider economy). Let’s build the third main railway line at Wiri, sort out the Grafton interchange with the current port, and crack on with a third harbour crossing. Then come back and talk about the port again in a decade’s time. There is a lot to get on with now without this hugely expensive poorly argued diversion.

Steven Joyce is a former minister in the last National government.
STUFFSteven Joyce is a former minister in the last National government.

Jones calls Port CEO ‘cowardly renegade’

Please note – Cubic does not support Mr Jones’ comments, or the proposal to move the port to Northport.

Shane Jones has called the Port of Auckland’s CEO a ‘cowardly renegade’ over the Port’s lobbying against New Zealand First’s plan to shift the port to Northland. Dileepa Fonseka also reports on the pros and cons of instead building a mega-port in the Firth of Thames.

Trucking industry leaders, infrastructure planners and port operators want an evidence-based debate on the upper North Island’s port strategy and are concerned the official study has focused on New Zealand First’s preferred option of moving the Port of Auckland to Northland. Instead, they want the idea of a new ‘greenfields’ port at the Firth of Thames considered for the long-term. 

Ports of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson told Newsroom New Zealand Inc should consider a new “mega-port” if it truly believes Auckland is not big enough to handle future freight growth.

But Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones is having none of it, and has instead ramped up his personal attacks on Gibson and threatened to take his complaints to Gibson’s board.

“To privatise the Firth of Thames and build a Singaporean-style port out there you need the mandate of the people,” Jones told Newsroom.

“The Ports of Auckland can’t even get a mandate from the majority of Auckland’s,” he said.

Singapore Port: Jones says a “Singaporean-style” port in the Firth of Thames isn’t feasible. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Gibson said he wanted to correct “mistruths” in the port debate.

“What we’ve advocated all along is as New Zealanders, as New Zealand Inc, we want the most cost-effective productive supply chain – and that’s not Northland.”

A number of economists and consultants, some commissioned by Ports of Auckland (POAL), have questioned the conclusion of an Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy (UNISCS) report making its way through cabinet. 

“If the evidence is there and you follow the process that is best practice then we would absolutely support good well-founded investment decisions.”

The report concludes the government should get POAL to give up its central city port site and invest close to $10 billion prepping Northport to take its place.

Road Transport Chief Executive Nick Leggett thinks the working group asked the wrong question with its study and said the Northport move was a “solution looking for a problem”, while Infometrics economist Brad Olsen believed the port debate showed the need for an overall infrastructure strategy with less “cherry-picking” of individual projects. 

But Infrastructure NZ CEO Paul Blair, who questions the analysis in the port report, said Northport was “the better of the options on a prima facie basis”.

“If the evidence is there and you follow the process that is best practice then we would absolutely support good well-founded investment decisions.”

Mega port versus Northport

In a world of 3D printing and sensitivity around emissions Gibson said there was every possibility freight loads would experience low growth.

New Zealand needed to plan for a number of “freight futures,” including one where its freight load increased. 

In such a scenario he said the option of building a “mega port” in the Firth of Thames could fill that gap – in 30 or 40 years time. 

“We need to take a much, much longer-term approach.”

Nick Leggett says New Zealand too quickly jumps to specific projects before asking what’s needed. Photo: John Sefton

A Firth of Thames port would be located close to Auckland – the port’s consumers – and not that different to the Northport option in cost, Gibson said.

It’s a view at odds with UNISCS chairman Wayne Brown’s own view. He said the latest report had examined the Firth of Thames option, but found too many infrastructure costs associated with it.

“This is why New Zealand gets caught in this infrastructure predicament because we jump to specifics and locations and projects before we ask what’s needed.”

Jones agreed and said a “Singaporean-style” mega port in the Firth of Thames would need a much larger government investment than Northport would. 

However, Jones said he accepted concerns Twyford and Robertson had raised that more analysis than UNISCS’ current set of reports were needed.

“We’ve got at least a year to do that.”

Leggett questioned whether a port move in either direction was needed at all.

“This is why New Zealand gets caught in this infrastructure predicament because we jump to specifics and locations and projects before we ask what’s needed.”

Even rail upgrades to Northport – which Brown said should go ahead immediately – might not be justified if you looked at the greatest rail infrastructure needs of New Zealand as a whole, Leggett said.

“I don’t think this is where you would start that, you would be improving the main [rail] trunk line between Auckland and Wellington.”

War of words

Jones accused Gibson of being an “anti-NZ First CEO” who had gone “totally renegade” with his actions around the port study.

“When our caucus meets I will seek their mandate to demand an explanation from their [POAL’s] board as to why they have mandated this recreant to show such animus towards New Zealand First,” he said.

A ‘recreant’ is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as someone who is cowardly or a deserter.

Leggett said there wasn’t a place for “threats or intimidation” in an infrastructure debate:

“It flies in the face of what is needed: evidence, data and asking what’s best for the greatest number of people.”

“What I explained was I’m not entering a political debate, I’m entering a practical debate.”

The stoush started at a meeting in Minister Grant Robertson’s office last week where Jones warned Gibson off venturing into politics.

Gibson said that meeting began with him asking why there were differences between conclusions reached from a first Ernst & Young report – which had ranked Northport 12th – and moved on to allegations from Gibson that UNISCS had moved away from its terms of reference. 

“What I explained was I’m not entering a political debate, I’m entering a practical debate.”

Gibson said the UNISCS was a “missed opportunity” to look at the supply chain as a whole. 

“I can’t understand why this recreant would believe that our Cabinet ministers wouldn’t skilfully work through these unresolved issues.”

“What NZ Inc deserves is a supply chain and a supply chain based on cold, hard facts based on a proper business case,” he said. 

Jones said it was always understood that more work would need to be done on the reports making their way through cabinet. 

“I can’t understand why this recreant would believe that our Cabinet ministers wouldn’t skilfully work through these unresolved issues.”

“Those are decisions made by politicians they’re not made by unelected renegade CEOs.”

Olsen said infrastructure decisions for the nation should fall somewhere between a purely technical analysis and a political call.

This was especially true in the ports debate where he said you could “make the numbers talk whichever way you want” at this stage.

“I don’t think we can have a purely technically-driven evaluation of infrastructure…where the balance needs to be is that we need to be able to pick ideas that are well integrated,” Olsen said.

“At the end of the day the public have charged politicians with the ability to spend public money.”

Northland port study mocked as inadequate

An economic analysis backing the move of the Port of Auckland to Northland has been panned as inadequate, poorly drafted, and full of padding.

AUCKLAND - JULY 12 2018:Freight ship in Ports of Auckland. its New Zealands largest commercial port handling more than NZ$20 billion of goods per year

Ports of Auckland. Photo: 123RF

The final report of a working party looking into the proposal was delivered to the government last week, giving its backing to a $10 billion move to Whangārei’s Northport, with the economic justification for the move contained in a report by advisory firm EY.

But Auckland’s port company has had the EY report put under the microscope by two economic consultancies – the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) and international firm Castalia.

Both studies said the EY report was short on numbers, made simplistic assumptions, and underestimated the costs of the plan while overestimating the benefits.

“The first and the most obvious point to make is that the report entitled ‘Economic Analysis of Upper North Island Supply Chain’ is nothing of the kind as it provides absolutely no information on how the supposed benefits are estimated,” the Castalia report said.

“The report is poorly drafted and contains almost no supporting evidence.”

WHANGAREI,NZ - Ship, wood logs and cranes in Northport

Northport in Whangarei. Photo: 123RF

Castalia said the EY study appeared to underestimate the cost of shifting the Port of Auckland to Northland by up to $3bn, while it overstated the benefits to Auckland City from freeing up waterfront land, and seemed to ignore that a shift north would likely see importers and exporters in the region put their business through the Port of Tauranga.

The NZIER analysis said the EY study was full of padding and speculation.

“The report has failed to address the feasibility question with sufficient transparency to provide a credible basis for advice to ministers.”

It also noted that EY had been involved in a 2017 report on the future of the port, which concluded the Firth of Thames or Manukau Harbour were best options for relocation and ranked the Northport option lowly.

Head of the Upper North Island Supply Chain working group, Wayne Brown, said the counter-review by the Ports of Auckland was “rubbish” and about “job preservation”.

The report given to the government relied on much more than the one EY report, with the group consulting 80 organisations, he said.

And he disputed the suggestion that carbon emissions would be greatly increased, saying Northport was closer for ships to get to and would use more rail and less roading than Auckland.

Ports of Auckland management declined to be interviewed but it a statement said the reviews spoke for themselves.

“They [the reviews] show that there are major problems with the EY study and that the idea of moving Auckland’s port to Northland is seriously flawed,” a port spokesman said.

Restoring the North Auckland Line

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones marks the announcement of funding for the North Auckland Line

The New Zealand government’s decision to invest $94.8 million to improve the rail line between Swanson and Whangarei in Northland underlines the clear vision it has for rail in New Zealand.

Announcing the funding in September, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones described rail as a crucial part of building a modern transport system, connecting people and regions, efficiently moving freight around the country and helping to take trucks off the roads.

However, he added, rail has been left to languish over the decades, receiving only a fraction of the investment needed to deliver an efficient and reliable network.

The North Auckland Line is a prime example of that. It is worn and prone to flooding, and the infrastructure will fall apart in the near future without proper maintenance. As a result, there are speed restrictions on many parts of the line, so trains have to travel slowly, and freight services are too easily stopped by weather events and derailments.

Tunnel 2, the one closest to Helensville, has already had steel ribs installed to ensure it stays safe in the short term. Without this work the North Auckland Line would have had to be closed within one or two years.

A long history
Rail has a long history in Northland. What became the North Auckland Line was built in sections from the 1870s, with the link between Helensville and Whangarei being built progressively between the 1880s and 1920s. The line north of Kauri (north of Whangarei) to Otiria (near Kawakawa) and the Dargaville branch line are currently mothballed.

The line now running between Swanson and Whangarei is approximately 181 km long and includes 13 tunnels, 88 bridges and 950 culverts. Used predominantly to transport freight, trains have carried logs and woodchips, china clay, dairy products, coal, cement, limestone, fertiliser, livestock, and general freight. Commuter services have never proved sustainable in the long term, and now run only between Auckland and Swanson.

In 2000 almost a million tonnes of freight a year was transported in the region by rail, marking the highest point of its popularity. With the move of Whangarei Port to Marsden Point in 2007, however, this dropped away significantly, and had fallen to 300,000 tonnes by 2008.

Other factors affecting usage include the poor condition of the rail line, resulting in slower trains and delays. Now, only 116,000 tonnes of freight is currently carried on the North Auckland Line a year.

KiwiRail runs one freight service to and from Whangarei each week day, carrying processed dairy products from Fonterra’s Kauri plant to MetroPort and on to Port of Tauranga; a small volume of high-value china clay between Whangarei and Metro- Port; and woodchip from Whangarei to Kawerau.

However, even this reduced tonnage is still equivalent to more than 8000 truck trips avoided each year. This means that if the line closed, Northland would see increased congestion, higher road maintenance costs, and higher transport emissions.

The investment announced by Minister Jones will allow us to offer more reliable and timely freight services and work to grow freight volumes, which will give Northland businesses/exporters more options to move their produce, and help take more trucks off the road.

Planned improvements
While this work is about maintaining what is already there, we are also looking at improvements to the line. Principal among them is lowering the existing tunnels so that hi-cube containers – which are an industry standard for export goods – can be carried on the line.

As part of the strengthening work on the tunnels, KiwiRail will be investigating what would be needed to lower the tunnels (to take hi-cube containers) in preparation for this work to be done later. For most of the tunnels, the works are expected to be relatively straightforward, but lowering Tunnel 2, which has been a problem almost from the day it opened, presents some challenging engineering problems to resolve.

The Ministry of Transport has completed the North Auckland Line Business Case for rail in Northland, and an Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy study is underway which will focus on the respective roles, opportunities and options for Northport, Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga. An improved and extended North Auckland Line and Marsden Spur could play a key role in that, opening the way for freight to flow to and from Northport by rail.

KiwiRail has held a designation for a 20 km Marsden Point rail spur for several years, and we have investigated the design and potential construction methods for the link, as well as costs and timeframes. However, the government is yet to make a decision on a rail line to the port.

The entrance to Tunnel 2, the Makarau tunnel, north of Helensville – the tunnel is one of the longest on the North Auckland Line

Reinforcing ribs inside Tunnel 2 now support the tunnel lining – KiwiRail has nearly completed the work to strengthen Tunnel 2

Detailed works
The work KiwiRail has currently been funded to undertake on the North Auckland Line includes the following.

Track, sleepers and ballast ($40–$50 million)

Works will target improving track resilience and reducing wear on track and rolling stock. Approximately 30% (54 km) of the network will be either upgraded or replaced, particularly worn areas where there are bends, turnouts and steep grades. This equates to around 80 linear kilometres of new rail. Approximately 80,000 sleepers are expected to be replaced and 50,000 cu m of ballast added.

Replacing five of the 88 bridges on the line ($15–$20 million)

These mostly wooden bridges will be replaced with concrete structures due to their deteriorating structural condition.

Repairs to 13 tunnels ($7–$10 million)

KiwiRail has nearly completed the work to strengthen Tunnel 2, north of Helensville, one of the longest on the North Auckland Line. This has included installing steel ribs to support the tunnel lining in an area of deformation. Work will also be done on the other 12 tunnels, including plaster repairs, crack filling and drainage improvements.

As part of the maintenance work on all the tunnels, below-ground conditions will be investigated in preparation for later work to lower the ground level in the tunnels (to fit the larger, modern hi-cube shipping containers).

Clearing drains and culverts ($7–$10 million)

Trackside drains along the 181 km stretch of line will need to be cleared. A quarter (237) of the 950 culverts (drainage pipes) on the line are in poor condition and will be remediated as required. Maintaining the drains and culverts is crucial for ensuring the stability of the rail line and managing flood waters during weather events. Many have not been looked at for decades.

Culvert and drainage work will protect the track condition, reducing clay and mud build-up in the track ballast, which makes the track more susceptible to movement.

Work stabilising the slopes on nine embankments ($3–$5 million)

This work will include drainage improvements and widening the embankments. There will be ongoing monitoring of the embankments to determine if further civil engineering work is required over the longer term.

Vegetation control along the rail line ($1 million)

In recent years, vegetation clearance has been limited to removing fallen trees and branches from the track. A significant amount of vegetation needs to be cleared from the sides of the track, which will protect the track and rolling stock, as well as improving access to worksites.

Review and make improvements to the Whangarei Rail Yard ($2–$3 million)

Changes will be made to improve safety and make freight handling and storage more efficient. For example, disused track that used to go to Whangarei Port could be removed.

A huge project
We are excited by the changes this will bring to our abilities to offer Northland businesses a better deal. We will be able to lift some of the speed restrictions, reducing the rail freight journey time to Auckland by approximately 1.5 hours. And we will be able to make rail services more resilient and reliable, reducing the number of line outages.

Where possible, KiwiRail will be using Northland-based contractors and sourcing materials from Northland. This will see millions of dollars going into Northland’s economy and help boost the region. If KiwiRail takes on any more permanent staff, we will look to Northland first.

This huge project will be structured into a mix of larger and smaller jobs making up the overall programme of works, and we have taken steps to ensure the local industry is aware of the opportunities, not just for large companies, but also for smallerscale contractors. Recently, in Whangarei, we held a briefing for about 40 contractors about future work opportunities. We have ensured that where possible the work is broken into bite-sized pieces suitable for smaller contractors.

We are delighted that the work is already underway, with the majority of it targeted for completion by September 2020. The investment is the first step in setting up the line to deliver for KiwiRail, for the region and for the country.

David Gordon is KiwiRail’s chief operating officer – capital projects and asset development; he oversees KiwiRail’s strategic capital projects and leads KiwiRail’s collaboration with the government, its agencies and local government on transport policy and investment issues

Auckland one of the worst cities in the world for public transport, road taxes according to new data

Auckland has placed among the worst cities in the world for public transport and road taxes in a new global rankings index.

The meta-analysis also found the cost of parking in New Zealand’s biggest city is comparable to Los Angeles.

According to a new rankings index, it’s worse than Mongolia and Nigeria’s biggest cities. 

A transport expert says there are two key reasons why.

“We need more rapid transit, more busways, more rail lines, more light rail, more of those projects, and cheaper fares in comparison to other options,” said Matt Lowrie from Greater Auckland.

Auckland has the 11th worst public transport, according to the new index, which gave scores based on accessibility, reliability, and affordability.

The best are the ones you’d expect — New York, Singapore, London, and Tokyo.

“You need good public transport so people have more options so people aren’t stuck in a car because every person who’s on a train or bus or ferry is someone who’s not on the road, in your way and causing congestion,” said Lowrie.

Published by an auto retailer, which is part of the French car group that makes Peugeot and Citroen, the research pulled together data from trusted sources like the World Bank, the United Nations, and the OECD.

Auckland Transport says it doesn’t agree with the findings. It pointed to another recent study that ranked Auckland 3rd in the world a measure called urban mobility.

The French rankings found Auckland drivers are out of pocket too – the city ranked as the 8th least affordable in terms of road taxes.

It’s not all bad, though; Aucklanders are apparently comparatively calm drivers – ranked 17th for road rage.

And the air quality was found to be the fourth-best — something that could get even better if more people swap cars for public transport. 

Auckland port move: Review claims ‘omissions and flawed logic’ in plan to relocate to Northland

The case for moving Auckland’s port business to Northland does not fit the criteria of the working group proposing it, says a new analysis.

A review by Auckland Council said it is not satisfied the move option, recommended by the New Zealand First-driven group, justifies the estimated $10 billion of investment needed.

The council review described an economic case advanced by Ernst and Young as “inscrutable”, because it lacked detail on how it found the re-location made sense.

Ports of Auckland continues to invest in its site, with a hydrogen fuel plant and automated straddles
SUPPLIEDPorts of Auckland continues to invest in its site, with a hydrogen fuel plant and automated straddles

The work by the council, which owns Ports of Auckland and the 77 hectares of waterfront land it operates from, is the most detailed criticism yet of the controversial proposal to wind down the port and transfer its business to Marsden Point, perhaps within a decade. 

“The preferred option appears to be an extremely expensive way to relocate jobs to Northland from Auckland,” said the council analysis.

An aerial view of Ports of Auckland from the east
NONEAn aerial view of Ports of Auckland from the east

The council analysis is of the interim report by the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy working group, released in October along with an economic analysis from EY, of the future options for the ports at Marsden Point, Auckland and Tauranga.

The group, backed by EY’s findings, recommended re-locating Auckland’s port to Northland, reflecting New Zealand First’s 2017 election policy, before getting agreement from Labour in the coalition agreement to conduct the UNISCS study

The final report has just gone to the Government and will be considered by cabinet in December.

New Zealand First MP Shane Jones is driving the case to relocate Auckland's port to Northland
TOM LEE/STUFFNew Zealand First MP Shane Jones is driving the case to relocate Auckland’s port to Northland

Analysis of the interim report by Auckland Council’s chief economist unit and its strategy and research department said the re-location option did not meet the principles which the working group established for itself.

It said instead of “cost efficiency”, costs would rise, “maintaining the level of competition” would not be achieved, and removing a key supply point for Auckland would not “maintain or improve the resilience of the supply chain”.

The review disputed the working group’s conclusion that clearing prime waterfront land would be an economic windfall through higher rates for Auckland Council.

“There is no evidence for this – any new activity on the waterfront will likely displace activity elsewhere in the city,” it said.

The council also said the economic case did not seem to take into account the significant spending before any benefits might flow.

“Investment in Northland required to handle Auckland’s freight volumes would need to be complete and operational before any managed closure (in Auckland).

“This means the net benefit is probably much lower than estimated in the report,” said the council review.

The council said the assessed impacts on employment were inconsistent, suggesting few jobs would be lost in Auckland, but 2000 created in Northland.

“A $10 billion project to relocate 2000 jobs is a very expensive way to relocate jobs (roughly $5 million per job),” said Auckland Council.

It also questioned whether the rail infrastructure that would be needed to run more than 100 freight trains a day through Auckland, as well as the truck traffic generated by a freight hub near Kumeu, had been fully assessed.

Another analysis of the EY economic impact report, seen by Stuff, but with the name of the author not disclosed, believed EY and the group might have over-estimated the net economic benefit of the move by nearly four times.

New Zealand First MP, and Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones who is championing the case to relocate to Northport, said he was aware of the differing views.

“There was always doubt about EY’s work (on the move) – but I just consider that to be part of the consultancy gossip chain,” Jones told Stuff. 

The UNISC working party was chaired by Jones’ friend and Northland neighbour, businessman Wayne Brown, who took part in a television interview on TVNZ’s Q&A on Monday night in which several lines said to be from the final report, still unseen by cabinet, were put to him.

Stuff asked Jones whether the interview was appropriate.

“I don’t think it’s disproportionately unorthodox,” said Jones, who had been informed the interview would take place, but said he had not discussed with Brown what should or should not be said.

“Wayne Brown is someone my leader (Winston Peters) and I regard as an incredibly successful businessman, interested in Northland – but he is his own man,” Jones said.

The Government had made no promises on whether the idea proposed by New Zealand First in 2017 will progress.

“We undertook that we would complete the study, and we will,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Stuff in October.

“I am not going to make commitments beyond receiving the final report because we need to see what evidence has ben compiled, and what the report tells us,” Ardern said.

The conduct of the working group’s study has created tension between it and Auckland Council, with sparring between Brown and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff who favoured the gradual redevelopment of the waterfront, but insisted there would need to be a price negotiated. 

Ernst and Young was approached for comment, but declined.

Stuff

Did KiwiBuild not teach this lot anything?

Duncan Garner 05:00, Nov 16 2019

OPINION: So now Winston Peters and his Government want to move the Ports of Auckland to Whangārei.

Such a small little thing to do that will barely cause much disruption at all. Said no-one ever.

Does anyone have any idea how ginormous this pie-in-the-sky promise really is?

Containers being loaded on to rail wagons at Ports of Auckland. Rail freight is a major part of the proposed expansion of Northport, in Whangārei.
Containers being loaded on to rail wagons at Ports of Auckland. Rail freight is a major part of the proposed expansion of Northport, in Whangārei.

Why? When? Where does the cargo go in the meantime? Has it been done before anywhere in a sane Western nation?

I applaud ambition usually, but this Government doesn’t appear to have a master plan at all. It has a series of massive work plans and ideas whose time may never come.

They being an expert panel who probably have no real idea, but call it a panel and it gets serious. Seriously, with Shane Jones’s wacko performance to farmers and now this out-there port wind-up, no wonder business is rightly nervous.

This port idea is shamelessly the work of Jones and Peters. It’s not just economic nationalism but is regional parochialism at its best – or worst, depending on how the future pans out.

NZ First wants to move Auckland port operations to Northport, in Whangārei.
NORTHPORTNZ First wants to move Auckland port operations to Northport, in Whangārei.

So will the roads be upgraded north of Auckland, and what trains are needed, and how can it be done when we can’t get a passenger rail system to Auckland Airport?

Peters has spoken publicly about the port report like it’s a done deal, and the money will come shortly. But how can this happen so easily if the same Government couldn’t build a few houses for the middle class? Taking the build out of KiwiBuild since election night 2017. 

Also no gain like a capital gain, as in the tax that sunk confidence but never went anywhere. And while we are at it, so much for ETS for farmers, because Labour suddenly froze.

The Whangārei port move is "shamelessly" the work of NZ First deputy Winston Peters and his colleague Shane Jones, writes Duncan Garner.
LAWRENCE SMITH/STUFFThe Whangārei port move is “shamelessly” the work of NZ First deputy Winston Peters and his colleague Shane Jones, writes Duncan Garner.

Anyway, the prime minister would hardly say boo about sinking the ports of Auckland into northern waters for fear of saying the wrong thing.

She hadn’t seen the report, but an hour later Winston was word for word all about it. So why was he all over it and the country’s most high-profile Auckland MP, who happens to be the PM, didn’t know anything. Is it deliberate and, if so, let’s drag her deep and demand answers.

It’s not a Government scared of trying anything and everything. Something has to work soon, if not in education, then health. If those then fail, maybe it’s in tax reform, but we know that answer, so maybe it’s on climate reform. Oh yes, the Zero Carbon Bill. That’ll do it.

Duncan Garner: "I applaud ambition usually, but this Government doesn't appear to have a master plan at all. It has a series of massive work plans and ideas whose time may never come."
SUPPLIEDDuncan Garner: “I applaud ambition usually, but this Government doesn’t appear to have a master plan at all. It has a series of massive work plans and ideas whose time may never come.”

I think this Government is dreaming, even on some of the small stuff. Standards and credibility matter, and they need to get busy, but they need to be believable.

Their eyes are bigger than their stomachs, and I wonder how much voters can digest if it’s a repeat next year.

Stuff