Safety fears over 2700 truck trips from giant container ship in Northland to Auckland

There are safety and congestion fears for the road north of Auckland, after news a container ship diverted to Northland will result in nearly 2700 more truck trips before Christmas.

Whangārei’s Northport has agreed to unload 1340 containers off the ship Constantinos P, after congestion at Ports of Auckland meant they could not be unloaded there in time for Christmas.

The ship, run by ANL Container Lines, was originally scheduled to stop at Auckland’s port on December 5 but congestion relating to the Covid-19 impact globally and a lack of staff meant the date was delayed to December 22.

The diversion of Constantinos P from Ports of Auckland to Northport will result in 2700 extra container truck trips, National Road Carriers says. (File photo)
KIRK HARGREAVES/STUFFThe diversion of Constantinos P from Ports of Auckland to Northport will result in 2700 extra container truck trips, National Road Carriers says. (File photo)

Northport agreed to step-up to help, even though the 261m ship will be the largest berthed at the port and it is not fully equipped to unload it, chief executive Jon Moore said in a statement.

Constantinos P will berth at Northport on Sunday and cargo will be unloaded by mobile crane, ready to be carted by road from Thursday.

Northport has handled container ships before but the 261m Constantinos P will be its largest.
NORTHPORT/SUPPLIEDNorthport has handled container ships before but the 261m Constantinos P will be its largest.

But the plan has raised serious safety concerns for the 140km road between Marsden Point and Auckland, according to National Road Carriers chief executive David Aitken.

There will be 2680 extra truck trips on the road due to the ship’s diversion – with trucks having to travel from Auckland to Northport, and then back.

“There is poor roading infrastructure between Auckland and Northport, including two accident black spots at Dome Valley and the Brynderwyns,” he said.

This 2014 crash in the Dome Valley resulted in no injuries, but the road is notorious for crashes. (File photo)
SUPPLIEDThis 2014 crash in the Dome Valley resulted in no injuries, but the road is notorious for crashes. (File photo)

Truck drivers are already at capacity due to the Christmas rush, and they will be interacting with holiday traffic, Aitken said.

“The road is not perfect, and they are going to be sending guys [truck drivers], used to driving metro, on the open road.”

Aitken said there was a lack of alternatives to the road, with the North Auckland rail line currently closed by a $110 million redevelopment.

It is not due to reopen until January 11, although a link to the port’s location at Marsden Point has not been built.

While Northport said coastal shipping was being considered, Aitken did not know what ships would be available to take the containers.

ANL had found a solution to suit themselves, without thinking of the wider consequences, he said, and more work needed to be done to improve the supply chain in the North Island.

Northport has focused on log exports until now, but it wants to have a bigger involvement in the North Island supply chain. (File photo)
NORTHPORT/SUPPLIEDNorthport has focused on log exports until now, but it wants to have a bigger involvement in the North Island supply chain. (File photo)

Moore agreed, saying there was a need for continued central government investment in road, rail and coastal shipping infrastructure.

“While current supply-chain issues impacting the country might be unprecedented, they demonstrate clearly the need for a resilient and geographically-astute Upper North Island Supply Chain strategy that makes best use of the three existing ports.”

ANL has been contacted for comment about the road concerns.

In a statement, the company said it was taking a proactive solution to support retail and the economy.

“We are confident in the capabilities of Northport and glad that we have found this solution with them. Furthermore, we believe Northport will be a suitable alternative gateway for North Island customers.”

KiwiRail looks into easing congested freight

KiwiRail is working around the clock to improve the movement of freight to and from the country’s two biggest ports, Auckland and Tauranga, which are congested.No caption

The domestic supply chain is congested, with industrial action at Australian ports and disruption in other key markets, combined with the annual pre-Christmas freight rush and peak export season.

KiwiRail has increased its freight service between Auckland and Tauranga and is ready to put on more services between Wellington and Auckland.

Chief executive Greg Miller said rail is the last major part in the supply chain.

”We are releasing a lot more train allocations and increasing capacity to help de-congest the supply chain to try and get products to market pre-Christmas. We have increased the available capacity between Auckland and Tauranga by 20 percent in the last two weeks.”

Miller said port companies in Auckland and Wellington are doing all they can to reduce congestion.

He said there is more customers can do to speed up the process.

”We are asking all freight forwarders to clear their containers from inland depots as quickly as practical.

”Notification of container arrivals is something that everybody is discussing and the advanced shipping intel is getting out there but we are asking all truck companies and international forwarders to clear their cargoes as soon as they possibly can,” he said.

A shortage of containers could spell problems for this country’s exporters as congestion at ports slows the supply chain.

Miller said delays in inbound cargo cause a flow-on effect meaning fewer containers are available for use to export goods.

”There are challenges of empty containers being available for exporters because of the inbound effect. So in the supply chain if you get something like a Covid or an industrial issue you can very quickly get delays that ripple up and down the supply chain.

”So that is why we need to work in a co-ordinated way with everybody.”

Miller said it could take some time before freight movements are back to a more normal level.

KiwiRail and CentrePort in Wellington are trying to come up with ways to work together to help relieve the pressure.

CentrePort chief executive Derek Nind said his port is ready to play its part by trying to ensure that customers do not face delays of up to three months in having their freight delivered.

”CentrePort has the capacity to process additional cargo from ships unloading in Wellington. Working with KiwiRail, the freight would be put on northbound trains to get to their ultimate destination in a timely manner,” he said.

COVID-19: Exporters facing huge delays as rail restricts container numbers

Kiwi businesses looking for relief from a COVID-19 downturn are facing frustrating export delays, with some waiting more than a month to ship their products overseas. a truck that has a sign on the side of a road: Rail has restricted container numbers causing huge exporting delays.© Newshub – Rail has restricted container numbers causing huge exporting delays.

Managing director of Morey Oil South Pacific, Shelley Free, said its oil exports bound for Brisbane typically took four days to cross the ditch, but wait times were now up to 37 days. 

“Which is probably applicable to the fact that the boats have just all been fully booked,” she said. 

“I know COVID-19 is to blame for a lot of this but, if we’ve got to get our economy up and running again, it means exporting.”

COVID-19 and strikes at Australian ports have caused congestion at our ports, delaying cargo ships arrival times. Some ships have been forced to anchor off the coast of Auckland for six days before they can dock. 

A big part of the problem is on land.

Auckland’s rail facility Metroport, that sends exports to the Port of Tauranga, is so stressed, it’s told customers it can’t accept all of their cargo.

“[Rail] can’t cope with massive volume like we have now, so delays to and from the Port of Tauranga up to seven to 10 days is also affecting the supply chain quite significantly,” Custom Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation President Chris Edwards said. 

Metroport is at full capacity, so much so it had to shut its gates last week and stop accepting all exports. 

Newshub has obtained evidence of it telling some shipping lines on Thursday that it won’t accept their exports until next week. 

Port of Tauranga, which owns Metroport, told Newshub it has put caps on container numbers to ease the pressure, but they should lift early next week. 

“We are working closely with shipping lines and KiwiRail to ensure priority cargo is transferred as quickly as possible,” a POT spokeswoman said. 

KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller said it was experiencing a significant increase in demand to move freight, to the point where it needed to be managed carefully. 

“We are urging road transport operators and customs agents to clear their cargoes from Metroport Auckland as soon as practicable.”

Customs had received no complaints, but New Zealand Trade and Enterprise said it was monitoring the situation. 

“At this stage, we are making our exporters aware of potential port congestion issues and suggesting they work closely with freight forwarders to ensure they can get their goods out of New Zealand.” 

Much lauded restart of Napier-Wairoa railway line only ran for a week

A Hawke’s Bay railway line that cost millions to resurrect ran for just one week before Covid-19 stopped it dead in its tracks.KiwiRail on Napier to Wairoa line.

KiwiRail on Napier to Wairoa line. Photo: RNZ screenshot

The return of the Napier-Wairoa line was promised as a saviour for Hawke’s Bay and the forestry industry.

Now KiwiRail is keeping quiet about when exactly it will restart again.

Following a $6.2 million investment from the provincial growth fund, the line was reopened by the then regional economic development minister Shane Jones in June last year.

But logging trains only began running on 26 January 2020.

A week later, and after just six return trips, the trains were brought to a halt.

KiwiRail said it shut because of Covid-19’s impact on the forestry industry.

Federated Farmers Wairoa branch chairman Allan Newton said some in rural communities were concerned at the taxpayer spending.

“When they work out that their hard-earned tax dollars have gone into such a project that has achieved so little at this stage, they are concerned,” he said.

“They spent a lot of millions of dollars getting this project off the ground and then not using it, it does appear to be a bit of a waste of time.”

But Ken Crispin of Napier – a passionate advocate for rail – disagreed.

He said people must look beyond the short term.

“You’ve got to look at it in long-term. I think if you talk about it in terms of one year or three years that’s not good enough. You’ve got to build a rail line and then promote it.”

Crispin said the Napier-Wairoa Road (State Highway 2) was dangerous and the big trucks were making it worse.

He was not against roads, but said there needed to have less freight trucks.

“There’s no way in the world that these trucks should be using that road. That road is not designed for heavy trucks. If a truck is a 60 tonne truck, it’s compacting that road and I think everybody knows it’s like a golf course now, there’s more holes in the road than there is a road.”

Stephen Bell is co-chief executive of Forest Management NZ in Napier. His company manages 26,000 hectares of forest over the country.

He said using rail was all about whether it was cost effective for his clients.

“We’ve always supported rail and we will continue to support rail. But the main driver for us is to make sure that it’s not costing our client.

“There’s a couple of reasons to support rail and one is it does remove trucks off the roads but it also allows quick turn around times from our logging sites in and around that Wairoa area to the actual rail hub, as opposed to carting it all the way to ports or the domestic mills.”

Kiwi Rail chief operations office Todd Moyle said in a statement the rail services are due to restart later this year. He did not give a date.

He said it would begin with two return trains each weekend, of 24 wagons – each trip taking 24 trucks off the road.

“Rail infrastructure investment has multiple, long-term benefits, some of which are not immediately obvious,” the statement read.

“For example, moving more logs by rail instead of trucks reduces road maintenance costs and congestion and improves road safety – particularly on regional roads like those between Napier and Wairoa which were not designed for heavy trucks.

“When the logging trains are fully up and running, close to 13,000 truck journeys a year will be avoided.”

Moyle said trains have 66 percent fewer emissions than trucks per tonne of freight, which helped reduce transport emissions.

He expected trains to run daily when the line was at full capacity.

KiwiRail wants its ferry terminal in the central city, without its competitor

September 3, 2020 – Report from RNZ by Catherine Hutton


Plans to build a multi-use ferry terminal in Wellington are in jeopardy, following KiwiRail’s insistence it wants to move into the central city beside rival Bluebridge, but won’t share facilities with them.

An estimated billion-dollar investment for new wharves in both Wellington and Picton is needed to allow KiwiRail to switch its Interislander operation to two new larger rail ferries by 2024.

Two years ago, the Future Ports Forum, comprising representatives from the Wellington Regional Council, the Wellington City Council, Centreport, the Transport Agency, KiwiRail, and Bluebridge was set up to look at where to best situate the capital’s new Cook Strait ferry terminal.

It was agreed the new site would be shared by the Interislander, which KiwiRail owns, and rival Bluebridge.

The latest report from interested stakeholders, released in April, recommended Kaiwharawhara where the Interislander ferries currently dock.

Regional Council (GWRC) chairperson Daran Ponter said KiwiRail left the forum before the final report was released because they did not agree with the location.

“Because they were on the working group they had an understanding of where that report was going to land in terms of its recommendation, they clearly didn’t agree with Kaiwharawhara as the preferred recommendation and they pulled out in advance. Not helpful, but it’s an interesting way of doing business.”

KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller denied leaving the forum, and said releasing the report did not make sense.

“What you are talking about is, ‘did we agree in the forum?’ and the fact is we didn’t agree in the forum, so we’d said no we don’t think that’s the best outcome and we made that very clear,” Miller said.

“Then you’d have to ask yourself, what was the benefit of the Future Ports Forum that couldn’t agree, when the two customers – Bluebridge and KiwiRail – couldn’t agree with the provider, that’s more the point.”

tructural engineers say the Kaiwharawhara site can be built to cope with earthquakes but geotech scientists are less sure.

Miller said it was the geotech report that made KiwiRail stop and think.

“Is this the best location on the port to put new ferries and a new terminal that is rail served? There’s also the motorway upgrade and the location on the port for future transport, which has always been a challenge at Kaiwharawhara, with road and rail location and for the passengers arriving from overseas and domestically, getting access to the Kaiwharawhara site,” he said.

Estimates for building new ferry terminals in both Picton and Wellington are vague – ranging somewhere between half a billion and a billion dollars.

Miller said the huge costs of having to remediate the site could not be ignored. “You can engineer your way out of many things, but what we’re told by the engineers is that the cost of mitigation is extremely high, so there is a cost component to this that you cannot ignore.”

KiwiRail prefers its new terminal to be at Kings Wharf, beside Bluebridge’s existing spot, and closer to downtown Wellington.

But GWRC chairperson Daran Ponter said while KiwiRail had zeroed in on the seismic issues at Kaiwharawhara, Kings Wharf also had problems.

Ponter said the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake showed how fragile the port was. The port received more than $600 million – the second biggest insurance payout in New Zealand’s history – for the damage suffered in that quake.

“Kings Wharf sits midway between the container terminal and the new BNZ centre, both of which were taken out in the November 2016 Kaikōura earthquake. So it would appear wherever you locate yourself around the Centreport site, you are potentially still open to being challenged by an earthquake.”

And documents suggest the lengths KiwiRail is prepared to go to get the site. An email seen by RNZ from their group general counsel, Jonathan Earl, to KiwRail managers in May raised the possibility of using the Public Works Act to secure it.

Ponter said that would be unprecedented and would effectively mean seizing land from regional ratepayers.

“Clearly KiwiRail are an acquiring authority under the Public Works Act, but Centreport itself is a public works. Because you can’t just use the Public Works Act because you like an option more than you like another. You’ve got to give good grounds for the option or for your preference.”

Miller denied that was an option they were pursuing.

“Well the Public Works Act is there to be used to acquire if we need to, and as I said to you we haven’t put in any time, effort into that because I do believe the relationship commercially long term is better to be resolved that way and that’s the way we’re going.”

Centreport is now preparing a third assessment report for a new site, but Miller said he was not keen to share a facility with Bluebridge at Kings Wharf because KiwiRail needed a single-use terminal.

“We needed a rail link span. We have far greater volumes of trucks and cars and passengers that we move, so we probably needed a greater area and how do you divvy up the cost in a single user terminal for that with a competitor?”

Ponter said regardless of KiwiRail’s preferences, ultimately the port company had to accommodate both operators.

In a statement, Bluebridge said it was aware of KiwiRail’s recent proposal to build another wharf adjacent to its site at Kings Wharf, and had provided feedback.

The report is due in the next two months.

In June, the State Owned Enterprises Minister Winston Peters told regional councils he wanted the forum to reconvene and find a solution.

National pledges new tunnel and highway in Wellington transport plan

The National Party has pledged a $4 billion infrastructure package for Wellington and the Hutt Valley if it is voted into government.National Party leader Judith Collins announces the party's $4b transport infrastructure plan for Wellington and the Hutt Valley, on 5 August 2020.

National Party leader Judith Collins announcing the party’s Wellington region transport policy in Petone today. Photo: RNZ / Charlie Dreaver

Leader Judith Collins made the policy announcement in Petone today, as part of its $31b transport infrastructure policy announced last month.

The package includes fast-tracking the construction of a second Mt Victoria Tunnel and building a second Terrace Tunnel.

The party is also promising to construct a new highway connecting Seaview, Lower Hutt, to State Highway 1 north of Wellington and introducing rapid buses or trackless trams between Wellington CBD and the airport.

The Wellington and Hutt Valley transport Package includes:

  • Fast-tracking construction of a second Mt Victoria Tunnel and delivering a second Terrace Tunnel
  • Fixing congestion at the Basin Reserve through grade-separation
  • Rapid transit between Wellington’s CBD and airport in the form of rapid buses or trackless trams
  • Removing highway traffic from Wellington’s inner-city streets by undergrounding SH1 through Te Aro
  • A new highway connecting Seaview in Lower Hutt to SH1 north of Wellington
  • Upgrading Wellington’s metro network, including new trains to improve services between Wellington, Masterton and Palmerston North
  • Widening SH1 to four lanes between Wellington’s CBD and airport (Ruahine St and Wellington Rd)
  • Widening SH2 to four lanes between Silverstream and Whakatiki St in Upper Hutt, and fixing dangerous intersections through new interchanges

Collins said the spending would be in addition to funding already been promised through regional council and government’s Let’s Get Wellington Moving plan and the New Zealand Upgrade Programme.

She said a new Mt Victoria Tunnel will deliver more reliable travel times between Wellington’s CBD and eastern suburbs, as well as the airport.

“This region is choked by congestion. Wellington has the worst traffic in Australasia for a city under one million people,” Collins said.

As part of the package the party is looking to establish a new body to deliver National’s redesigned let’s Get Wellington Moving package.

Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop said a Wellington Transport agency wasn’t a new idea, but it was one that had real merit.

“Transport in Wellington has been a debacle for far too long – we only have to look at the lasagna of failure two years ago with the buses.”

Bishop said at the time the regional council blamed the city council and the city council blamed the regional council.

“Wellingtonians were just left there saying ‘what on earth has gone wrong’ and ‘why can’t the buses go on time anymore?’,” he said.

Labour’s transport spokesperson Phil Twyford agreed a new agency could be a good idea if the councils agreed.

But he hit back at National’s lasagna claim.

“I would say the National Party cooked that lasagna, the bus-tastrophe that happened over the last couple of years was a direct result of the public transport operating framework that National legislated and we’ll be fixing it,” he said.

He also questioned how the National Party would pay for an extra $31 billion in its infrastructure programme on top of what Labour had already committed to.

“They’re not telling Kiwis how they’ll fund these massive promises, what projects are they going to cut?” he said.

Twyford said Labour was committed to a second Victoria Tunnel – however, it had previously pushed back construction to as late as 2029.

Twyford said a second Terrace Tunnel was not priority.

In previous transport announcements National promised to connect Ōtaki to Wellington’s electric commuter train network, fast-track a four-lane expressway from Ōtaki to Levin and a Palmerston North rural ring road.

Harrowing CCTV footage show Kiwis’ near misses with trains

Harrowing CCTV footage released by Kiwirail shows Kiwis' near misses with trains as the...Harrowing CCTV footage released by Kiwirail shows Kiwis’ near misses with trains as the organisation begins its campaign for Rail Safety Week. Photo: KiwirailHarrowing CCTV footage released by Kiwirail shows Kiwis’ near misses with trains as the organisation campaigns for Rail Safety Week.

On average, a New Zealand train driver will experience a near miss every day, according to KiwiRail.

In total, there have been 323 near misses with trains at railway crossings involving cars and pedestrians, according to Rail Safety Week campaign website nearmisses.co.nz.

At public level crossings, there have been 12 collisions and 191 near misses in the past 12 months to June 30 – with the majority involving light vehicles.

To reflect on theses statistics, Kiwirail has shared a video which features a variety of near misses caught on CCTV.

Each incident has been turned into a near-miss memorial at the corresponding train station.

The memorials feature half crosses with barcodes on them, which allow people to scan and watch the harrowing footage.Each incident has been turned into a near-miss memorial at the corresponding train stations....Each incident has been turned into a near-miss memorial at the corresponding train stations. Photo: KiwirailOne includes the “woman in hoodie”, where a woman can be seen looking the other way before seeing the train in the corner of her eye and barely making it across.

The other videos continue to follow a similar pattern, with adults, kids, cyclists and drivers crossing the tracks with a moment to spare.

Locomotive engineer Jeremy also speaks about his experience with near misses in the campaign video.

“Just think when you run in front of a train, there’s someone in there who has to deal with that and try deal with the effects of it,” Jeremy said.

“It’s a real sort of heart-in-your-mouth scenario. It’s someone making a split-second decision and not really thinking about the effect it’s going to have on others.”

KiwiRail Group chief executive Greg Miller said while people might walk or drive away after a near miss, these split-second decisions can cause long-term effects for everyone.

“People are risking their lives and just one second of inattention at a railway crossing can create a circle of trauma rippling outwards – impacting friends and families, our drivers and the community.

“A freight train weighing 1000 tonnes across 30 wagons can take a kilometre to come to a stop once the brakes are applied. It also takes time for the commuter trains in Auckland and Wellington to stop.

“Quite often our locomotive engineers know how it’s going to turn out. They sound the horn, hit the emergency brakes and, often, hit the floor and get behind a safety block.

“They are hoping that against all the odds the person or vehicle will get out of the way in time, and that this won’t become one of the worst days of their lives.”This woman just made it. Photo: KiwirailThis woman just made it. Photo: KiwirailThere has been a drop in recorded near-misses compared to last year, but Miller said that was no reason to relax.

“It’s likely the Covid-19 lockdown has played a part in the drop, as between late March and June near misses halved at level crossings compared with the same time last year.

“However, it’s not just people and vehicles involved in near misses. Last year there were more than 200 near misses involving livestock in the rail corridor. This is highly distressing for the animals and can be too for the farmers who take care of them.”

TrackSAFE NZ Foundation Manager Megan Drayton has also called on people to take greater care when crossing the railway line.

“In the last 12 months, KiwiRail recorded more than 300 near misses across the rail network. Of these, 191 near misses occurred at public level crossings and the majority of those crossings had flashing lights and bells or barrier arms.

“This shows us that even with warning signs and protections in place, some motorists and pedestrians are still either being complacent, or taking unnecessary risks.

“For this year’s campaign, we’re sharing stories of locomotive engineers who have experienced a near miss that’s been caught on camera. It’s a chance for people to hear the drivers’ stories and to put themselves in their position.

“We’ve set up a campaign website where people can explore near-miss memorials, which are locations where there’s be a recorded near miss, mostly at level crossings.

“These near misses are represented by a thought-provoking half cross ‘memorial’ to show the severity of what could have happened and that these people narrowly avoided a serious or fatal collision.”

The week-long campaign is coordinated by KiwiRail and TrackSAFE NZ in close partnership with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, NZ Police, Auckland Transport, Transdev Auckland, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Transdev Wellington and many other councils throughout New Zealand.

Rail safety advice
• Cross with care – trains can arrive at any time from either direction.
• If you’re driving, obey the warning signs and look carefully in both directions for trains.
• Listen, be aware and pay careful attention to your surroundings.
• Trains can approach faster than you think, and can be quiet. They are heavy and cannot stop quickly.
• Always ensure there is space on the other side of the crossing for your vehicle before crossing the tracks.
• If you’re on foot, only cross at a formed level crossing or an overpass or underpass.
• Remove your headphones, stop and always look both ways for trains before crossing the tracks.
• Only cross if you are sure there are no trains in sight.
• Obey the warning signs at the crossing – if lights are flashing or bells are ringing this means a train is approaching.
• If a train has passed or is stopped at the station, always check both ways again to make sure another train is not coming. Two tracks may mean there is a second train.

KiwiRail replaces two railway bridges in one weekend near Te Puke

New spans in place on Bridge 105.
New spans in place on Bridge 105.

Bay of Plenty Times 6/8/20

Last weekend KiwiRail staff and contractors replaced two railway bridges – Bridge 105 near Pukehina Beach Rd and Bridge 91 just outside Te Puke.

“In order to minimise the disruption to our freight customers, we replaced both bridges over the same weekend,” says KiwiRail chief operating officer, capital projects, David Gordon.

“Freight train services did not run between Te Maunga and Kawerau on Saturday and Sunday.

“We originally planned to do this work during Easter, however, the Covid-19 lockdown period meant we had to reschedule.

David says the old timber bridges had reached the end of their useful life and have now been replaced with modern concrete bridges.

“Upgrading the bridges provides greater resilience for our log, dairy and other freight traffic along this section of the East Coast Main Trunk line.

“The work is part of a wider regional resilience programme funded by the Provincial Growth Fund.”

Firth of Thames best home for a new port for 100-plus years: Auckland Business Chamber (and Cubic agrees)

The suggestion of the Firth of Thames is a
The suggestion of the Firth of Thames is a “brave, big call”. Photo/ Google

By: Andrea Fox Herald business writer andrea.fox@nzme.co.nz

Just when you thought not another report could be wrung out of Auckland’s port future debate, the Auckland Business Chamber is urging all Kiwis to completely “re-imagine” a port for 100-150 years – and it’s pick is in the Firth of Thames.

After staying pretty quiet during a flurry of reports over shifting the Auckland port, the chamber is launching its own take, “A Port for the Future”, which invites the community to use an accepted timeline that the existing port will do for another 25 or so years, to carefully plan another to last more than another century.

And for port observers feeling reported-out, Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett assures “this is not another report”.

“It is an effort by the chamber to get people to re-imagine where a port might be and what would be the best for New Zealand and New Zealand business – not a competition between Auckland and North or Tauranga but an informed discussion of what could be.”

Barnett said the chamber represents the voice of Auckland business without bias, and in this neutral position has stepped back to analyse all the discussion around the relocation of the port from Waitemata Harbour.

“The chamber … now realises that the issue is not just an Auckland problem, but is one that, if done correctly, will bring benefits right across New Zealand.”

The chamber had concluded the existing port was fully sustainable for another 25 to 30 years and that a solution is required beyond that. To provide a port solution beyond the generation after next required vision and a willingness to go beyond the familiar.

Ports of Auckland has 25-30 years of life left in it, says Auckland Business Chamber. Photo / Michael Craig
Ports of Auckland has 25-30 years of life left in it, says Auckland Business Chamber. Photo / Michael Craig

The chamber’s offering makes a case for a man-made island ship exchange terminal in the Firth of Thames, connected by broad gauge rail to a container terminal facility in the vicinity of Pokeno/Meremere.

The island terminal would be “a whole-of-New Zealand” terminal servicing large foreign trade ships handling all import and export containers. The report does not discuss costs but points to several overseas examples to underline there is nothing in the paper that is not tried and proven elsewhere in the world.

“What is running out (for the existing port) is social licence and that’s what’s motivating us to try to accelerate the debate and re-imagine what a port could look like”, Barnett told the Herald.

“What’s been uncomfortable has been the apparent political nature of the discussion so far, it tends to have been personality-driven from the north – almost an anti-Auckland thing. Yet this isn’t about either of those things, it’s about a nation down in the South Pacific dependent on its ability to import and export.

“We need something for the next 100 years and the people of New Zealand should make that choice. It’s not up to a politician or a government.

“(So far) we have re-imagined the port simply by saying ‘let’s pick up Auckland port and take it north (to Northport)’. I’m saying we can do it another way.”

The chamber will widely distribute its paper within the freight, transport and shipping sector and invite comment and discussion directly to the chamber.

The chamber’s analysis concluded there would always be a need for a port in Auckland – “just not as we know it”.

Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett.
Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett.

Social licence issues arising at New Zealand ports were “but the tip of the iceberg and demonstrate that the focus being purely on relocation of the Port of Auckland is extremely narrow and has the potential to lead to a flawed conclusion”, said the paper.

“Ports of Auckland is clearly approaching a sunset phase, however, it is the chamber’s view that the present facility will be capable of handling existing throughput plus growth for several years to come … (but) it is inevitable and acknowledged by the chamber, that the port’s container facilities will be shifted from the present location to another site.”

The paper said volume growth and investment required at the Port of Tauranga, along with “other issues starting to emerge” made it “pretty safe to assume that the Tauranga terminal will also be looking for a new location in future”. In four weeks the Tauranga port handled as many containers as Wellington’s port in a year.

Current modelling showed that with the construction of the future city of Drury South, the Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga triangle would encompass four of New Zealand’s six largest cities.

Over the next 30 years the population in the area between greater Auckland and Taupo was forecast to grow by 7.8 per cent a year. During this time the rest of New Zealand’s population was predicted to grow by 2 per cent a year and by 3.6 per cent north of Auckland.

The option of developing a new port at Manukau Harbour raised in earlier reports was indeed an option when considered just in the context of Auckland, the paper said.

“However it is not compatible with the chamber’s objective of providing a future solution that will benefit NZ Inc. Throughout … the chamber has avoided introducing untested or yet to be implemented technology as will be required to overcome the hazardous conditions presented by the Manukau Harbour entrance.”

The Firth of Thames had been looked at in studies over the past 25 years.

“Unfortunately the concept appears to be too far out of the mainstream for people to understand, especially as it has only been viewed as a solution solely for Auckland and suggest constructions methods based on the traditional.”

The paper details modern construction methods used overseas.

Barnett concedes the chamber’s suggestion of the Firth of Thames is a “brave, big call” given the environmental, wildlife and iwi concerns that are likely to be raised against it.

But with time on New Zealand’s side for consultation, research, innovation and planning, problems could be properly addressed and hopefully overcome.

Barnett, a veteran of port group discussions over the years, worked with ports consultant Tony Boyle to produce the paper. The project cost did not exceed $10,000, he said.

“But I like to think it is rich in intention.”

New initiatives at KiwiRail’s Southdown container transfer site

The following announcement from KiwiRail concerns changes at Southdown.

We’re proud that our Southdown Container Transfer site is the third largest container handling facility in New Zealand and a critical part of many of our customers’ supply chains. Each year we handle around 450,000 TEU through this site.

Over the past five years we’ve invested over $30 million at Southdown to improve service, resilience and support growth:

• Truck entry laneways have been streamlined for KiwiRail, MetroPort and MetroBox container flows
• New top lifters to meet the growing freight volumes
• New reefer towers to handle increasing demand for temperature controlled cargo
• Upgraded rail grids for MetroPort
• Improved site traffic management systems

We’re now about to introduce two new initiatives to further improve the speed and flow of containers through Southdown for our road transport partners.

Vehicle Booking System to speed-up container throughput

With up to 1,200 trucks visiting our Southdown site each day to either deliver and/or uplift containers, and with only the Port of Tauranga’s Metroport part of the site currently operating a Vehicle Booking System (VBS) we are aware that congestion can become a real issue at certain times, as a result of trucking operators having to queue up to enter the site.

To ensure that the whole site is able to run more smoothly and to provide a more streamlined and faster process for all of our customers, KiwiRail is going to introduce a VBS which will apply to all non-Metroport volumes later this year. This will result in a reduction in average truck queueing times across the whole site.

The VBS will be an online tool, using the same product as that used by the Port of Tauranga’s Metroport operation at Southdown.

This will mean that not only will the whole site now use a VBS, but by having the same system as that already in place with Metroport, it should significantly improve the experience for many operators.

By being able to book specific container delivery or uplift timeslots, it will enable truck arrivals at the site to be more evenly spread across each day.

This will result in faster truck turn times due to reduced queuing times, thereby increasing truck productivity and efficiency and provide a general improvement in on-site safety through a reduction in overall site congestion.

Having the same VBS will also help minimise any training requirements, as trucking companies currently servicing Metroport will already be very familiar with using it and for any new users, we will be arranging all necessary training for your staff at no cost to you.

While there will be a cost for the use of the VBS, just as with all other such systems, we are firmly of the view that the improvements this will provide transport operators through increases in fleet productivity, will provide much greater value than the system’s cost to use.

Please note that we are not currently intending to introduce a VBS at any other of our container transfer sites at this time.

We will provide further updates on this initiative once we have a confirmed start date for the system, including how we plan to roll out the required training we will be providing to all new users.

Certified Weighbridge

We are also going to be installing a brand new, fully certified weighbridge at our Southdown site which will be available for use by both customers and the general public.

It will be positioned near the entrance of the site, so it is easily accessible not just for truck operators wishing to enter the site, but also for those who simply want to have their trucks check-weighed.

At this stage we expect the weighbridge to be commissioned and available for use before the end of the year and we will provide you with more information about processes and proposed charges for using it, prior to it becoming operational.

We trust you will find these as positive enhancements to our services and we look forward to being able to commission both in the near future.