Warning NZ ports may start to seize up this week if non-essential freight can’t be moved

Allowing only essential freight to be transported to businesses by road, not that simple, haulage organisation warns.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/STUFFAllowing only essential freight to be transported to businesses by road, not that simple, haulage organisation warns.

A “pile-up” is looming at the country’s ports that will restrict the movement of food and medical supplies if non-essential freight destined for closed businesses can’t be cleared, Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett has warned.

“All manner” of freight could arrive at the same time on cargo ships, he said.

“We now have a situation where many businesses that receive some of that freight are closed and there is nowhere for it to go,” he said.

“The issue with non-essential goods is you can remove them from the port, but if there’s nobody at the receiving end at work, where do you put them?’

The Government needed to recognise that “all freight must move” during New Zealand’s coronavirus lockdown, and not just essential items, Leggett said.

He forecast “constipation” at the ports and massive problems, if the issue wasn’t addressed.

“This an absolute real live thing.”

Containers need to be cleared and emptied to ensure essential supplies can get in and exports can get out, Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett says.
SUPPLIEDContainers need to be cleared and emptied to ensure essential supplies can get in and exports can get out, Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett says.

​Mainfreight chief executive Don Braid said it wasn’t seeing congestion yet, but the forum was “making good points”.

“Under the lockdown rules, it is not possible to deliver non-essential freight.”

A successful outcome would require “innovative thinking and action”, he said.

“We are attempting to assist the government agencies through this where we can.” 

Leggett said officials at the Transport Ministry had “definitely listened” to the forum’s concerns, but had said the rules stood at this point.

“If it is deemed by the Government to not be essential, it cannot be moved.

“We absolutely appreciate the reasons for that but if we don’t have an ‘all-of supply’ chain solution to this we believe there will be issues in a couple of weeks,” he said.

Transport Ministry supply chain manager Harriet Shelton responded to the forum’s concerns with an update that said its lockdown rules did allow the movement of non-essential goods “if necessary to move or create space for essential goods”.

Leggett said the forum would not have put out its warning lightly at this time.

Reopening closed businesses to accept non-essential freight would “fly in the face” of the reasons for the lockdown, which were to keep as many people home as possible, he said.

“We do appreciate that, but we need a solution.”

Leggett said another problem was that if containers in which non-essential goods were imported were not emptied, there would be a shortage of containers for exported goods going out.

“All freight needs to move during this time to enable the valuable exports that are going out, such as kiwi fruit, access to ports.”

Port of Tauranga says non-essential freight can be stacked next to its terminals but will then take time to retrieve, so it is important essential goods are identified first.
MATT SHAND/STUFFPort of Tauranga says non-essential freight can be stacked next to its terminals but will then take time to retrieve, so it is important essential goods are identified first.

Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association chief executive Rosemary Dawson agreed that the delivery of non-essential cargo remained an issue that would need to be dealt with to avoid congestion. 

“Sea freight was operating fairly normally now,” she said.

But Dawson said she “absolutely” shared some of the concerns expressed by the Road Transport Forum, including with regard to the availability of empty shipping containers.

Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns said it had put in place new measures to allow importers to identify imported cargo required for essential services before it arrived in New Zealand “so that it can be handled and transported first”.

It needed the support and co-operation of importers and exporters to help it manage the flow of cargo “and avoid blocking the path of essential food, medicine, equipment and other supplies”, he said.

Mainfreight chief executive Don Braid says the Road Transformation Forum is making good points and innovative thinking will be needed.
CHRIS HUTCHING/STUFFMainfreight chief executive Don Braid says the Road Transformation Forum is making good points and innovative thinking will be needed.

Non-essential imported cargo could be temporarily stored on or off-site until it could be collected by truck or transferred by rail to MetroPort Auckland, he said.

Spokeswoman Rochelle Lockely said non-essential freight could be stored near its terminals in Auckland and Tauranga, but once freight went into that “locked stack” it would not be fast to retrieve, so it was important essential items were identified first.

There was a worldwide shortage of shipping containers because of the disruptions caused to supply chains globally by the coronavirus, but that was not something the port had detailed information on, she said.

The port would not charge extra fees for storing non-essential cargo until April 26, apart from one-off handling charges and for power charges needed to keep refrigerated containers cool, Cairns said.

The Road Transport Forum has suggested that some goods that can’t be delivered to closed businesses could be stored on land owned by Kiwirail, but Leggett believed that could only be part of any remedy.

“Closing down the country to the scale we have now hasn’t been done before and it does reveal some issues that need to be addressed pragmatically,” he said.

To illustrate the problem, Leggett said 14,000 cars were expected to arrive from Asia over the next month.

“Those cars cannot stay on the port; they have to go somewhere. The dealers that would normally take them are closed.

“We appreciate cars are not an essential service, however, they are holding space that is needed for essential goods.

“Our industry is looking at how we could find storage for the freight with nowhere to go, but we need the Government to allow that freight to move,” he said.

Leggett said some truck drivers had been stopped by police and asked what they were doing on the roads.

“Well, they are doing a job and it is one that is essential at a time like this.

“They cannot be forced by the Government to be arbiters of what is essential and non-essential on the back of their truck,” he said.

Stuff

The feebate failure shows EV action must come from the people

As Winston Peters obstructs a scheme designed to encourage take-up of electric and hybrid vehicles, we’ll have to look elsewhere for leadership on electric vehicles.Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s apparent inability to stand up to New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is looking not just embarrassing for her but perhaps costly for the country. Effective action on housing, child poverty and the environment were the standout promises of Labour’s campaign in the last election. The pledge to be “transformational” is now not only a broken promise but an increasingly deep disappointment. On top of the Government’s well-known failure with KiwiBuild, new figures show family poverty to be grudgingly intransigent. Sadly, the Government’s struggle to make headway is now not only in housing and poverty, but also in the environment.

With scientists warning the world has just 10 years to avert catastrophic global warming, the urgency for political parties to agree on workable measures is greater than ever. Yet for each step forward, such as the net-zero carbon legislation, there is another going back.

The latest backward step is the indefinite delay of the proposed feebate scheme designed to hasten and encourage take-up of electric and hybrid vehicles.

New Zealand is one of only two OECD countries to do nothing to regulate vehicle pollution and, thanks to petty political wrangling, we’ll be staying with Australia in the slow lane a while longer.

The scheme is not yet in ideal shape, but agreements were in place to neutralise the potential unfairness – and therefore the political risk – of making petrol and diesel cars pricier. The technical fishhooks could well have been straightened out through the select-committee process. In response to criticism from National and others, the Government had early on agreed to exempt farmers and those who depend on powerful, load-towing vehicles not yet available other than in diesel or petrol form. However, NZ First has now stalled the policy.

The Greens’ response has been to make their frustration public, thus depleting any remaining goodwill between them and NZ First. Labour has once again been left looking ineffectual in the face of coalition rivalry, and Ardern ineffective in preventing Peters from running the show.

As for the National Party, whose leader and transport spokesperson both drive EVs and which has an increasingly influential blue-green wing, it has yet to propose an alternative way to encourage New Zealanders to make the switch to electric vehicles.It’s fair to say both National and NZ First still have valid concerns about the proposed scheme’s effect on rural and provincial New Zealand, but it’s also true they could be “grandfathered” until suitable green vehicles emerge.

The Treasury argues the Emissions Trading Scheme would be a better way to drive our fleet conversion. But the scheme is complex, controversial and largely incomprehensible to most. The feebate’s transfer mechanism has the virtues of simplicity and comparative ease of implementation.

One can also argue that a compulsion to switch to electric vehicles – which are by no means free from environmental problems – will hasten the research and development required to improve them.

The limited, and often overstated, range of EVs, the paucity of charging facilities and sluggish supply of vehicles into New Zealand’s small market are all problems, with or without a feebate. Questions also abound over the sustainability of the EV batteries’ mineral-dependent manufacture and short life. And how do we greenly repurpose the redundant global fossil-fuel car fleet?

These issues need, and are receiving, urgent global attention.

Meanwhile, our most effective response to the greenhouse-emissions problem is a widespread conversion to EVs as soon as practicable.

Sure, the scheme was never perfect, yet perfect is not always the aim. Many people want to make the switch from petrol- and diesel-driven engines, and this scheme may perhaps have been less politically untenable than NZ First and National seem to presume.

In the face of the changes New Zealand must make to reduce environmental degradation, the feebate scheme is minor. However, as a signal of political commitment to move in the right direction, it is vital.

Those who can afford to switch to electric or hybrid vehicles, and who can see the value to New Zealand, should do so, knowing that environmental protection is too important to leave to political vagaries. They should be applauded, along with all Kiwis who consciously keep their transport emissions down. Leadership on this will have to come from the people.

This editorial  was first published in the March 7, 2020 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

New Zealand ports see growth amid potential cargo shift

in Port News 18/02/2020

New Zealand’s ports have generally continued to experience growth in container volumes amid potential that all freight operations at the Ports of Auckland could eventually get dispersed amongst other nearby ports.

Ports of Auckland plays a huge role in New Zealand’s trade with other countries, being that it handles the second highest amount of container volumes in New Zealand, with the Port of Tauranga taking first place. However, the Ports of Auckland did experience year-over-year declines in net profit and container volumes for fiscal year 2019, which ended June 30, 2019 for New Zealand’s ports.

From port to port. New Zealand’s ports collectively handled 3.43 million TEUs in FY 2019, up 1.3% from FY 2018 and up 7.4% from two years prior, as illustrated in the chart below, which was built using data from the relevant port authorities across the country.

Six of the ports saw container volumes increase year-over-year in FY 2019, while three experienced a decline, as illustrated in the chart below, which was also built using port authority data.

The chart below, built using data from BlueWater Reporting’s Port Dashboard tool, shows the Port of Tauranga is called by the most liner services that connect New Zealand to regions beyond Oceania at 13, nine of which are container services, followed by the Ports of Auckland with 11 liner services, six of which are container services.

The Ports of Auckland and the Port of Tauranga have the strongest global ties of New Zealand’s ports. While the vast majority of the liner services that call New Zealand don’t sail beyond Oceania or Asia, there are four liner services that call New Zealand that sail beyond these two regions.

The chart below, built using data from BlueWater Reporting’s Port Dashboard tool, shows the three container services calling New Zealand that also sail beyond just Oceania and Asia. All three call the Port of Tauranga, while two of the three call the Ports of Auckland.

Not included in this chart is a roll-on/roll-off service operated by Wallenius Wilhelmsen. Although the ro-ro service’s rotation changes slightly with each voyage, it tends to sail between North Europe, the East Coast of North America, Central America, Oceania, Asia, West Coast North America, Mexico, Central America, East Coast North America and back to North Europe. The ro-ro service tends to only call Auckland in New Zealand.

Shift proposal. A final report by The Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy (UNISCS) Working Group, an independent working group that reported to New Zealand’s Ministers of Finance, Transport and Regional Development, found that the Ports of Auckland is unviable long term.

The final report, titled, “Transforming Auckland; Transforming Northland – Final Report of the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy (UNISCS) Working Group,” was released in November.

The UNISCS Working Group recommended that Northport, which operates a multi-purpose port in Marsden Point, should be developed to take over much or all of Auckland’s existing and projected freight business, while the Port of Tauranga’s existing expansion plans should proceed to accommodate growth.

“The new two-port configuration should be supported by a rejuvenated North Auckland rail line and spur to Northport, and a new inland freight hub in northwest Auckland to complement and be connected to Metroport (Auckland) in the south,” the UNISCS said.

MetroPort Auckland is an intermodal cargo hub that connects to the Port of Tauranga via rail.

The working group recommended the government give the ports until Dec. 1 of this year to reach a commercial agreement on how the strategy should be implemented. Additionally, the working group recommended the transition begin immediately and be fully implemented by no later than 2034.

The working group said it “argues for Tauranga to continue with its growth plans but for Northport to be the major site to cater for freight growth over the next 15 years and beyond.”

In response to the finding’s, New Zealand’s Ministry of Transport said in December that the working group’s recommendations raise a range of economic, social and environmental questions for the government to consider. Consequently, the government instructed the Ministry of Transport to undertake further analysis and report back to the Cabinet in May.

Time for a shift? There appears to be numerous reasons to shift freight operations from the Ports of Auckland, with one of the largest being the amount of money that would have to be invested into the site for it to remain viable.

The UNISCS Working Group noted how the Ports of Auckland’s freight operations are already constrained, particularly on the landside, adding how it would require an estimated NZ$4 billion in investment over the next 30 years and the dredging of a further two million metric tons from Auckland’s Waitemata Harbor for the port to effectively handle New Zealand’s expected freight growth.

Additionally, existing port operations in Auckland remain highly industrial, and include the importation and storage of containers, vehicles, coal and cement. “These uses produce very poor returns for its owner, Auckland Council, with dividends dropping as low as NZ$8.7 million for the privilege of occupying land with probable value of NZ$6 billion,” the working group added.

Business at the port was not exactly booming in FY 2019. The Ports of Auckland’s annual report for the fiscal year showed that compared to the prior fiscal year, breakbulk cargo volumes (including cars) fell 3.3%, container volumes fell 3.5% and car volumes fell 14.3%.

Ports of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson said container volumes were down because infrastructure work needed to automate the terminal reduced the terminal’s capacity and made operating more difficult. Additionally, he said car volumes were hindered by a drop in car sales, as well as new treatment rules for imported vehicles, which are designed to prevent the brown marmorated stink bug from entering the country.
However, data from Ports of Auckland shows that container volumes for FY 2019 were the lowest they had been since FY 2016, as illustrated in the chart below.

Additionally, Auckland’s economy is no longer based on manufacturing, let alone agricultural commodities, but is overwhelmingly dominated by services, according to the UNISCS Working Group, which added how Auckland generates export revenues from tourism, education and IT, which don’t require a port.

It also appears most Aucklanders don’t necessarily want a port in the area. A June 2019 Colmar Brunton study, dubbed, “Aucklanders’ Sentiment Towards Moving the Auckland Port,” which was prepared for the Ministry of Transport on behalf of the UNISCS Working Group, asked respondents, “How do you think moving the cargo port would affect Auckland’s attractiveness as a place to live, work or visit?” Sixty-two percent of respondents said they thought that moving the cargo port to a new location (possibly outside Auckland) would make Auckland much/slightly better.

Potential prospects. Auckland, Tauranga and Northport make up the Upper North Island’s three ports. While Northport is New Zealand’s newest port with a massive amount of potential, the Port of Tauranga is the country’s biggest port and continues to see rampant growth.

“The progressive and managed closure of Auckland’s freight operations, the development of Northport and the continuation of Tauranga’s existing expansion plans is in the best interests of Auckland, the rest of the Upper North Island and New Zealand as a whole,” according to the UNISCS Working Group.
In regards to Northport, the working group noted how there is a vast supply of flat, industrial-zoned land adjacent to the port with no higher alternative uses. “The storage of imported vehicles, empty containers and bulk goods can take place around Northport at a fraction of the cost possible in Auckland,” the working group said.

Additionally, the working group pointed out how New Zealand relies mostly on agriculture and forestry to supply exports to provide income for the country. “Of the Upper North Island’s three ports, Tauranga is close to producers of export commodities and is known best as a successful export port, but is also taking an increasing share of Auckland’s import business. Like Tauranga, Northport is also close to producers of export products and also handles the importation of all of New Zealand’s fuel, but its expansion is hampered by the absence of a rail connection.”

Northport features a three-berth facility at Marsden Point with a total wharf length of 570 meters, according to Northport’s website. For berths one and two, there is 13 meters of water available at chart datum and 14.5 meters at berth three.

The port’s terminal primarily focuses on the export of forest products, although it can cater to large, multi-purpose vessels. The port features 58 hectares of land, 30 hectares of which are currently paved and being used for cargo operations, while there is over 180 hectares of land outside the port that is available for port-related ventures to set up and operate from.

Meanwhile, container volumes over at the Port of Tauranga are booming, as well as substantial upgrades at the port.

“International experts have told us that Port of Tauranga can easily accommodate up to 2.8 million TEUs on our current footprint. We already have the next stage of capacity expansion under way,” Port of Tauranga CEO Mark Cairns said in December. “We still have plenty of capacity on the rail connection between Tauranga and Auckland, with the ability to double the current number of trains per day.”

A Port of Tauranga spokesperson told BlueWater Reporting in January that the port owns 190 hectares of land on both sides of Tauranga Harbor, with about 40 hectares still available for development.

“Our next significant capital expenditure will be extending the container terminal quay to the south. Port-owned land adjacent to the existing berths will be converted from cargo storage to a fourth container vessel berth, adding up to 385 meters to the overall quay length. We hope to have this completed in about two years,” the spokesperson added.

The port’s ninth ship-to-shore crane is being delivered in early 2020 as well as seven straddle carriers.

“Future stages of expansion will be driven by cargo volume growth and will primarily involve rail-mounted stacking cranes and additional ship-to-shore cranes,” the spokesperson said.

Ports of Auckland’s perks. Although business at the Ports of Auckland did decline in FY 2019, it still plays a huge role in New Zealand trade, and upgrades at the key port remain underway.

Current projects in the works include automation at the container terminal, as well as a car handling facility.

Beginning in 2020, the container terminal will become the first in New Zealand to use automated straddle carriers to load and unload trucks and operate the container yard, according to a Ports of Auckland FAQ pamphlet updated in January. There will be a total of 27 automated straddles, although the terminal will retain 24 manual straddles for servicing the vessel cranes and the out of gauge, oversized cargo truck lanes. The northern berth will be automated first in late March 2020, while the launch of phase two is expected to occur in May, in which automated straddles will work the southern half of the terminal.

Meanwhile, the Ports of Auckland reiterated in its December 2019 quarterly newsletter that its car handling facility will be complete by August 2020. The facility will allow the port to handle more cars in less space and will be capable of holding up to 1,700 vehicles.

Additionally, the Ports of Auckland does still appear to economically benefit Auckland and New Zealand as a whole. The consulting firm New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) released a report in October 2019, dubbed, “Location, location, location – The value of having a port in the neighbourhood,” which found that the national economy, measured by GDP, would be well over NZ$1 billion smaller per year if goods moved through another port.

NZIER noted how the value of cargo crossing the wharfs at the port has grown faster than the volume, especially on the import side, as well as how the downtown port serves the country’s largest and fastest growing center of economic activity.

The port “gives firms in Auckland a competitive advantage: the final leg of an import journey is a short one, as is the first leg of an export journey,” NZIER said.

Additionally, data from BlueWater Reporting’s Country to Country Transit Analysis by Service tool shows how the Ports of Auckland plays a key role in liner shipping operations from China, New Zealand’s top trading partner, in terms of imports and exports.

The first chart below shows that four of the five fastest liner shipping transits from China to New Zealand involve Auckland. However, the second chart below shows that from New Zealand to China, the fastest transits involve the Port of Tauranga, followed by the ports of Napier and Lyttelton.

Source: Bluewater Reporting

Trucking sector suffering as coronavirus outbreak stalls freight

The coronavirus outbreak in China is having a serious impact on the New Zealand trucking sector, with an industry leader predicting it could get worse.

The National Road Carriers Association (NRC) represents 1800 road transport companies collectively operating 16,000 trucks throughout New Zealand.

Chief Executive, David Aitken said companies which carry exports like logs and meat to ports or Chinese imports to New Zealand warehouses and retailers were feeling the pinch. 

“It’s potentially going to get worse quickly,” said Aitken.

“With Chinese towns and cities in lockdown, many factories are closed and therefore not taking goods, nor producing goods. We are aware of importers who are not able to place orders and expect to run short if production doesn’t get back to normal soon. “This has consequences for our sector,” he said.

A number of forestry operations throughout the country have stopped logging with the Forest Industry Contractors Association reporting about 30 percent of the country’s logging crews are unable to work amid the supply chain disruption and no one knows how long the situation will last. 

“This will have a flow-on effect to truck operators.”

Meat works have reduced kills for the China market meaning farmers are having to keep stock even during the drought conditions we are experiencing, so stock are not being carried to the meat processors, and processed goods are not transported to ships. 

“We understand freezers and chillers are full so this will further affect the processors’ ability to take stock.

“There are also limited goods coming out of China, so the number of containers with goods destined for New Zealand shop shelves is expected to be down. These are just some of the effects, all of which will reduce the number of road transport movements.”

Aitken said NRC was advising its trucking company members to be aware of the situation and plan where possible.

“We are telling trucking companies to do what they can to keep their company infrastructure in place. When this virus blows over, which it will, there will be a mad rush to move goods around again. Chinese people need to eat, and China needs materials to get its industries up and running again.”

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Simon Limmer told RNZ that the company was working hard to try and balance storage and processing capacity.

“It’s a little bit of a perfect storm I guess at the moment because whilst we’ve got big livestock flows, plus the drought really putting pressure on processing capacity, the coronavirus situation has meant we don’t have a lot of confidence to in our ability, or the supply chains ability to get product into China just at the moment.”

Using Road Funds For Rail “highway Robbery”

The Government’s plan for “user-pays” road funding to further subsidise KiwiRail is highway robbery, Road Transport Forum (RTF) chief executive Nick Leggett says.

“The RTF opposes funding rail from the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF), which is funded by road users, and we have made a submission to Parliament’s Infrastructure Select Committee considering this law change,” Leggett says.

“We believe the excessive funding planned for rail is ideologically driven, rather than based in any business reality, and we don’t believe road users should have to pay for that. It’s highway robbery.

“The Government is expecting the NLTF to cover the already depleted road and rail infrastructure from a finite revenue source, and it will be road users paying for that. As the road money gets siphoned off for rail, we expect to see even more unsafe roads.

“Despite this Government’s desire to control markets, customers decide which freight mode best suits them. The Ministry of Transport’s National Freight Demand Study 2017/18 shows demand for road freight increased by 16%, while demand for rail freight declined by 17%. This is because the advantages of road over rail are many.

“Rail’s environmental benefits over road are simply illusionary, as any level of success for rail transport is entirely dependent on truck transport. Measuring environmental performance solely on the basis of the relative performance of the truck versus train, instead of the reality of point-to-point sender to receiver, is a very narrow perspective, typically favoured by academics without any interest in economics.

“This Bill stacks up the rail track network, owned exclusively by KiwiRail, against roading infrastructure utilised by all road users, owned by the Crown and a number of road controlling authorities (RCAs).

“Road users who pay into the NLTF have no ownership rights whatsoever, but are obliged to pay prescribed fees to use and maintain roads, ensuring safety expectations are met.

“Road users are also subject to property rates for providing accessibility to the roading network. This makes the suggested funding model in this Bill inequitable for road users.

“While the Bill attempts to counter this inequity with reference to track user fees (TUCs), there is no evidence of what those TUCs might look like.

“The road freight sector does not believe TUCs are going to meet the rail programme spend, which the Government has indicated will be significant. The principal rail operator arguably has no mandate to operate on a full cost recovery basis, so this puts road freight at a disadvantage to its heavily subsidised freight competition. “We agree rail services need support to provide a service complementary to road freight, however, rail freight’s strength is in long distance transportation (over 500km) of high volumes of relatively low value products, such as coal.

“In New Zealand’s freight market, the two modes should operate as complementary, not competitive,” Leggett says.

Government to buy land for rail to Northport and Marsden Point

Charlie  Dreaver

Charlie Dreaver, Political Reportercharlie.dreaver@rnz.co.nz

The government has announced it will be buying land to build a spurline to Northport and Marsden Point and upgrading rail in the Northland region.

Railroad tracks. Railway tracks. generic

$40m has been earmarked to to purchase land along the designated route of the spur line to Northport and Marsden Point. Photo: 123RF

Today’s announcement comes as ministers are still considering the New Zealand First-backed policy of moving the bulk of Auckland’s freight operations to Northport.

State Owned Enterprises Minister Winston Peters and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones today said $109.7 million would be invested into upgrading Northland’s rail infrastructure through the Provincial Growth Fund.

They said $69.7m would be spent to lower the tracks through tunnels on the Northland Line between Swanson and Whangarei, reopening the rail line from Kauri and building a container terminal at Otiria.

Another $40m was earmarked to purchase land along the designated route of the spur line to Northport and Marsden Point.

Jones said the investment would allow KiwiRail to secure the land needed for a new rail line to Northport.

“Having this land means that when the government does make its final decision about a future port in Northland, we will be ready to get going,” he said.

Last year it was announced $95m of provincial growth funding would be used to undertake maintenance on the rail line to Whangarei.

Peters said this second phase of funding was a game changer, allowing more freight onto rail and help reduce road congestion, road maintenance costs and lower carbon emissions.

“It will also mean that modern shipping containers can be carried through the tunnels on the North Auckland Line,” he said.

Mayors back move

In a joint statement, Far North mayor John Carter, Whangarei mayor Sheryl Mai and Kaipara mayor Jason Smith welcomed the announcement.

“These are historic investments, the start of a decade-long economic transformation for Northland to make an ever-greater contribution to the prosperity of the Upper North Island and all of New Zealand,” they said.

Carter hoped today’s announcement was a sign of good things to come for Northland, and said it was now up to the mayors to tell Northlanders and those in Auckland of the benefits of moving to Northport.

“It’s an indication of the fact that we now need to do our part so that then the parliamentarians, particularly during an election year, can do their part and they know they will get the support of the people if they come up with the goods,” he said.

He said moving the Auckland’s main port to Northport would be good for not only Northland but the whole of New Zealand.

National criticises spend on rail link before port decision

National Party Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop said the government was going about it the wrong way.

“The first thing to do should be to decide if the port is going to move to Northport and then you go about creating the infrastructure to make that happen.

“Instead what New Zealand First has essentially forced on the government is spending $40 million to buy the land for a spurline to Northport, in advance of a decision being made to move the port,” he said.

Bishop said if the port did not move, the government would have spent $40 million on a line that was irrelevant.

However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it showed they were a common sense government.

“It makes sense to connect your port to rail, regardless.”

She would not say whether it signalled a move to Northport.

Julie Anne Genter: Why the ‘New Zealand Upgrade’ falls short


Julie Anne Genter
 | Guest writer
Opinion

The Green Party transport spokesperson writes on the good, the bad and the ugly of the big infrastructure announcement.

It is election year and it is time to decide where we are heading.

The Green Party will be laying out bold plans this year for reducing our climate pollution, ensuring people have enough to thrive, and protecting nature.

This week’s announcement on the NZ Upgrade falls short of what is needed to deliver this work for the country.

We have been celebrating the wins we fought hard for in the NZ Upgrade. There is $200 million that our Green minister for climate change has won specifically to replace the coal boilers that are fuelling our schools and hospitals. This money will make a difference.

In transport, we got a lot more for the climate than you might expect. Over $1.6B for sustainable transport for rail, bus priority and a long overdue dedicated cycle and walkway over the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

But we have to be honest as a country that we need to go further and faster if we are to meet the goals in our Zero Carbon Act.

Generation Zero wrote in the Spinoff that they were very disappointed at some of the incredibly expensive motorway projects that make up the lion’s share of the transport spend in the NZ Upgrade.

They are absolutely right. It is nowhere near what we need.

Reducing climate pollution is not a “nice-to-have”. It is a physical imperative.

Either we reduce pollution enough to limit dangerous global over-heating, or we face an increasingly insecure future plagued by drought, fire, floods and famine.

If we’re going to borrow billions to invest in the future, we must ensure that every cent helps us protect that future.

Every one of us needs to do our bit in this fight, and every sector needs to pull its weight in cleaning up our act. Transport has been one of the worst, and increasing in recent years.

A few things need to happen for us to reduce transport pollution in line with our 1.5C goals. We need a step-change in public transport, active transport, rail and sea freight; and we need rapid electrification of our car fleet.

It’s true that the NZ upgrade transport package frees up more money in the National Land Transport Programme (the three-year transport budget). Our expectation is that public and active transport, rail freight and coastal shipping, and road safety will continue to be the priorities for future investment.

But the decision to resurrect a few very expensive highways won’t reduce emissions, won’t reduce deaths and serious injuries across the country, and won’t make it easier to get around for most people every day.

A Green Party upgrade would have prioritised differently, including:

  • Electrification of more rail lines around our major cities to shift trains away from diesel.
  • New rolling stock to increase the services for people, making rail more reliable and accessible.
  • Re-scoping roading projects to focus more on safety rather than increasing capacity far beyond what is needed.
  • Bus and other rapid transit projects, including light rail.
  • Supporting cycling and walking infrastructure in our towns and cities.
  • Electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

So what’s next?

I’ll be working to maximise the wins we’ve already won, including reviewing the scope of projects like Mill Road and the Tauranga Northern Link to make sure they include continuous bus lanes and modern off-road cycleways. It’s quite possible we can re-focus these projects to make them better for people and planet. And we will be bringing much better alternative projects to the election campaign.

To do more, to go further and faster, we will need more power in the next governing arrangement.

We have little time to act, but we have so much to gain by doing the right things in the transport space; a stable climate, cleaner air, happier, healthier more connected communities, lower petrol bills, and jobs that help people and the planet.

Government’s transport package takes the wind out of the Opposition’s sails, but new promises put it under more pressure to deliver

Jenée Tibshraeny's picture

30th Jan 20, 8:30am byJenée Tibshraeny

Phil Twyford, Jacinda Ardern, Grant Robertson

By Jenée Tibshraeny

Labour and NZ First have pocketed political wins from Wednesday’s big infrastructure project reveal.   

The Coalition Government has taken the wind out of the Opposition’s sails; Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern now adopting National’s “we’re the party of infrastructure” line.

Both the business community and unions are broadly pleased with the $6.8 billion of transport projects to be brought forward and funded.

The Government is now under pressure to execute its plans well.

With KiwiBuild under-delivering and it still being undecided whether the New Zealand Transport Agency or New Zealand Super Fund will run the Auckland light rail project, the public’s tolerance for teething problems/stuff-ups related to much-needed infrastructure is near zero.

The same goes for the construction sector, which is crying out for certainty and continuity.  

Some of the transport projects announced on Wednesday were consented under the National-led Government, and some were earmarked in the second phase of its Roads of National Significance, criticised by Labour when in opposition.

Even though the designs of these projects have been “improved”, National leader Simon Bridges can legitimately claim parts of the Coalition Government’s big reveal are a “copy” of his party’s plans.

He also makes a fair point that the Government wasted time “tearing up these plans and putting them back together again”.

But the reality is, these roads weren’t built under National, so in the eyes of the public (which just want the work done), the Coalition Government comes out on top.

Bridges said National will “go even further” on infrastructure investment.

But the question is, where will it get the money from, especially as it wants to borrow less as a portion of gross domestic product (GDP) than the Government is.

National is open to public private partnerships. It also wants to introduce “revenue neutral” congestion charging, which it will need to pitch carefully so it doesn’t get slammed for going back on its word and introducing a “tax”.  

But the Government has left National little to attack it over in election year when it comes to this new infrastructure spend.

NZ First one-ups the Greens

NZ First leader Winston Peters was chipper at Wednesday’s announcement and even had to be dragged away from the media by NZ First MP Shane Jones (who made his presence known) to get to his next engagement.  

Just over $1b was secured for rail, as well as $692m to upgrade SH1, Whangarei to Port Marsden, to four lanes.

Questions were raised at the press conference over whether this signalled the Government was leaning towards moving the Ports of Auckland north.

Cabinet is expected to report back on the matter in May. It wasn’t sold on a working group recommendation last year to move the operation to Northport, as NZ First wishes.

As for the Green Party, it looked a bit like the neglected sibling in the Coalition Government family.

While some of the roading upgrades will include cycle and walkways, some investment is going into public transport, and funding has been committed to the Skypath over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, the transport package is unashamedly road-heavy.

The party’s co-leader James Shaw acknowledged if he could have things his way, the mix of projects would look different. 

He characteristically kept face, but will yet again have to tell Green supporters something to the tune of: “We know it isn’t perfect, but we’re doing what we can within the bounds of the political system.”

James Shaw defends transport spend-up: $5.3b on roads

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said today's announcement marked the most significant upgrade in public transport infrastructure in the time he has been alive. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Climate Change Minister James Shaw said today’s announcement marked the most significant upgrade in public transport infrastructure in the time he has been alive. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

By: Georgina Campbellgeorgina@newstalkzb.co.nz

Climate Change Minister James Shaw is defending the Government’s $12b infrastructure announcement, in which roads are the big winner, amid criticism from green lobby groups.

Greenpeace and Generation Zero have criticised the package as a missed opportunity to clean up New Zealand’s transport network.

Although Shaw said as co-leader of the Greens it should come as no surprise that the party would have prioritised a different mix, he backed the package as Climate Change Minister.

“You can’t take away from the fact that there’s $1.8-billion of this package that is devoted to rail, light rail, cycling, walking infrastructure, the $200m that we’re putting into the clean-powered public service.”

Major roading projects announced were being rescoped to include, where possible, things like public transport, he said.

Roads make up $5.3b of the $6.8b spend on transport in the infrastructure package announced today.

That gives the green light to several four-lane highways, including State Highway 1 from Whangārei to Port Marsden, Mill Rd in South Auckland, widening SH1 from Papakura to Drury, the Tauranga Northern Link and SH1 from Otaki to north of Levin.

It was a coalition Government and the Greens had influenced the shape of the package overall, Shaw said.

He was particularly “delighted” with projects like the Auckland Harbour Bridge “SkyPath” going ahead, and the $1.1b for rail.

“When you consider the overall mix it will it will lead to a real shift in a congestion-free network for New Zealand.”

But Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson has slammed today’s announcement as a missed opportunity.

More roads would lead to more cars, which would contribute to more emissions, she said.

“The climate crisis is fundamentally an infrastructure challenge. We can move away from our dependence on dirty fuels by building lots of solar, wind, batteries, electric trains, busways, and cycleways. All of this creates thousands of jobs,and gives people options that they currently don’t have.

Generation Zero was equally disappointed.

Spokesman David Robertson said the Government had allocated an excessive amount of money for roads.

“These roading projects are paving the way to a climate disaster. This money should instead be spent on accelerating public transport infrastructure across New Zealand which in turn would encourage a mode shift, and reduce both congestion and emissions.”

But Shaw wasn’t worried today’s announcement would come back to bite the party in this year’s election campaign.

“If you look at the scale of what we’re investing here in cycleways, in walking infrastructure, in heavy rail, in light rail right around the country and in some of our most congested cities, I think this upgrade is the most significant upgrade in public transport infrastructure in the time I have been alive.”

Cabinet ministers want more homework done on port relocation

Shane Jones is keen to avoid too many more lengthy reports but acknowledges it’s a once-in-a-generation project and widespread buy-in is important. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller.

Cabinet ministers have ordered more work to be done on the Northport proposal, to report back to Cabinet mid next year.

It’s officially released the report of the working group set up to consider the best configuration for the upper North Island ports, which came back with a strong recommendation to progressively move Auckland’s freight operations to Northland.

The Transport Ministry will now do more work on funding and financing options, governance and commercial considerations, land use planning and a range of other factors.

(Read the full report: PDF 1.4MB)

The Cabinet paper released alongside the report said the “key issue” for ministers was “whether the the potential gain… is sufficient to justify the significant Crown seed investment and possible need for regulatory and legislative intervention”.

Using the latter approach, it said, would result in “significant levers to use given the implications for private property rights”.

The working group made its one recommendations after considering eight scenarios – Cabinet ministers also want the ministry to also take another look at those scenarios.

(Read the full report: PDF 1.1MB)

The paper noted the “limited share of decision making rights” held by the Crown if it comes to relocating ports, and the importance of getting key stakeholders such as the Ports of Auckland and the Auckland Council on board.

“We advocate early and open engagement with the owners of the current upper North Island ports…and the Port Companies” to build consensus, the paper said.

The current owners are “cornerstone partners whose agreement and cooperation in any decision will be a requirement of making progress”.

It acknowledged engagement with those parties had been “limited to date…we anticipate aligning the partners will take some time to achieve”.

The ministry will also work with the newly formed Infrastructure Commission to help with the analysis.

Associate Transport Minister and chief cheerleader Shane Jones said he was “pleased” his Cabinet colleagues have “recognised the merit of this report and have agreed to move forward with this work”.

“I expect this analysis to consider environmental effects, including on New Zealand’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, and consideration of government infrastructure investments in roads and rail, for example, building a rail spur to Marsden Point,” he said.

“Nobody is keen on spending too much longer developing lengthy reports but this is a once-in-a-generation project and widespread buy-in is important, as is the need to make the best decisions for the long-term prosperity of our supply chain.”

It remained his view that Northport was “the most sensible relocation option” but he accepted this “is a whole-of-government decision”.

The working group has estimated the cost of the Northport proposal at around $10 billion.

Cabinet expects a report back by May next year. The report has a budget of $2 million.

Goff says compensation essential

Auckland’s Mayor Phil Goff says the city’s residents will need compensation when the port is eventually relocated.

Goff said a newly released working group report on the Northport proposal suggests Auckland is left with the land rather than being bought out.

He said residents have invested over $600m in the port and should be treated as shareholders.

“They need to get some sort of compensation if that asset were to get taken off them and that’s basically what Treasury and the Ministry of Transport have pointed towards,” Goff said.

“This isn’t the wild west, you can’t go around nationalising things and saying: ‘well, just be grateful we’ve left you the land even if we’ve taken the value of the company off it’.”

Goff said he was pleased Cabinet ministers have ordered more work to be done on the Northport proposal.

“What we wanted was evidence driven, robust and independent of any vested interest group report saying how it should happen and where it should go to,” he said.

‘Pie in the sky’ – Bridges

National’s leader Simon Bridges said the $10b price would be a big hit on the government’s books.

“If they make this decision they won’t have a single bean left from their infrastructure spend up; they can only spend this borrowed money once.”

And he questioned the government’s ability to make Northport a reality.

“These guys can’t deliver, they are unrealistic, they’re pie in the sky, they come up with a lot of stuff. They’re always short on the implementation and the delivery – this thing is fraught with issues.”

Northport wants to talk to two other ports

Northport said it is ready to meet with Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga to discuss the future of freight for the North Island.

In a statement, its chairman Murray Jagger said a newly released working group report on the Northport proposal gives it confidence to talk about the potential opportunities.

Mr Jagger said the three ports need to digest the ramifications of the report and discuss the situation together.

“Northport has a very clear vision of the role it can play in the economic growth of Northland, Auckland and New Zealand,” he said.

“Significant growth is possible here. We have been clear for many years that we stand ready to assist in any way we can to support Auckland’s growth and the aspirations that Aucklanders have for their waterfront.”

Mr Jagger said he hoped to convene a meeting of the chairs of all three ports involved – Northport, Port of Tauranga and Ports of Auckland.

“We need to digest the ramifications of what we’ve seen and heard today, and flesh out a win-win-win situation not just for our three communities, but for all of New Zealand,” he said.

“We then need to seek the input of tangata whenua, our wider communities, and business and civic leadership before bringing these suggestions to government.”

Ports of Auckland has declined an interview with RNZ.