Nation ‘$1b poorer’ if port leaves Auckland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anticipating the report’s release 

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Dickens: Ports of Auckland debate misses the point

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

Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ignoring Whangarei’s capacity to absorb the growth.

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile what would I start doing tomorrow?

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

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

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

David Farrar: My stance on Ports of Auckland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jones calls Port CEO ‘cowardly renegade’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mega port versus Northport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

War of words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Auckland Port move: CEO decries ‘made up facts’ by pro-move group

Todd Niall 15:50, Nov 22 2019

Ports of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson
SUPPLIED/POALPorts of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson

The chief executive of Auckland’s port company has broken his silence and joined a public war of words over the case being promoted to shift the port to Northland.

Tony Gibson has described arguments being promoted by Wayne Brown, the chair of a government-funded working party, as a “jumble of made-up ‘facts'”. 

Brown chaired the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy (UNISCS) group, being driven by New Zealand First, and which recommended closing Auckland’s port and expanding Northport at Marsden Point, at an estimated cost of $10 billion.PlayMuteCurrent Time0:17/Duration Time1:32Loaded: 0%Progress: 0% FullscreenSTUFFPrime Minister Jacinda Ardern on the future of the report looking at Auckland’s Port

Gibson said he was not against an eventual move of the port from Auckland’s waterfront, “but can we at least move it somewhere sensible”.

Brown has been promoting to media, arguments in favour of the move, following the delivery to the government of the final, and still-confidential report which refines the “move” recommendation of the interim report released in October.

Northport at Marsden Point is recommended by a working group for expansion to replace Auckland's port
SUPPLIEDNorthport at Marsden Point is recommended by a working group for expansion to replace Auckland’s port

“This is the fifth port study in my eight years as CEO of Ports of Auckland, and, well, let’s say it’s not the best,” said Gibson.

Ports of Auckland this week released reviews it had commissioned by two consultants, which were critical of an economic analysis produced by Ernst and Young for UNISC, which had backed the move and estimated the benefits to be double the costs.

One review by NZIER said the “move” recommendation should treated “with a high degree of caution”, while Castalia argued the true extra cost of moving could be nearly four times EY’s estimate.  

An email purportedly sent by the New Zealand First party, seeking donations by making a link to its port-move policy
TWITTERAn email purportedly sent by the New Zealand First party, seeking donations by making a link to its port-move policy

“In their 2016 study (for Auckland Council), EY said that Northport in Whangarei was almost the last place they’d move Auckland’s port to, yet in this recent study they say it’s the best,” said Gibson.

He disagreed with Brown’s argument that with 30 per cent of Auckland’s imports currently arriving via Port of Tauranga, they cost no more to deliver than imports that come across Auckland’s own wharves.

“That’s because Ports of Auckland is still here so if Port of Tauranga charged more than us, they wouldn’t have a business. Close Auckland’s port and watch prices rise,” said the CEO.

Stuff understands Gibson was told a week ago by Associate Transport Minister and New Zealand First MP Shane Jones – the main proponent of the “move” case – not to put his head in “a political noose” by taking part in public debate.

Jones told Stuff he was aware of differing views over EY’s work, but considered the criticism “part of the consultancy gossip chain”.

Gibson disputed Brown’s claim that the land occupied by Port of Auckland, could be worth $6 billion if freed up.

“We’re required by the Auditor General to value the port land as if it was in its ‘highest and best use’. Every time, skilled and experienced valuers say the land is worth less than a billion dollars.”

Gibson’s comments today had been provided in advance, to Ports of Auckland’s owner the Auckland Council, but the mayor Phil Goff is in Australia on leave and was not available for comment.

Goff and Brown have previously clashed publicly, over the direction of the study, and whether Auckland would be compensated if it’s port was moved.

Whether New Zealand First’s policy to re-locate the port goes beyond the completion of the UNISCS report, will depend on cabinet when it considers the report next month.

Completion of the government-funded study was part of the 2017 coalition agreement between New Zealand First and Labour.

“I am not going to make commitments beyond receiving the final report because we need to see what evidence has been compiled, and what the report tells us,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, told Stuff in October. 

Stuff has been trying to confirm the authenticity of a fund-raising email sent out in the name of the New Zealand First party, which uses its policy on moving Auckland’s port as encouragement to donate.

A spokesperson for Shane Jones said the minister had no knowledge of it, and the party leader’s office referred Stuff to MP Darroch Ball, who has not responded.

Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff asked Jones whether the interview was appropriate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ernst and Young was approached for comment, but declined.

Stuff

Did KiwiBuild not teach this lot anything?

Duncan Garner 05:00, Nov 16 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff

Andrew Dickens: Latest ports proposal is rooted in politics

A leaked report has found that the Ports of Auckland should be moved to Whangarei.

The report details how the freight operation at Ports of Auckland is no longer economically or environmentally viable. It also says that if Auckland and Northport can’t reach a commercial agreement within 12 months, then the Government should introduce new legislation to force the move.

That’s a big call. A really big call.

To recreate a wharf operation 150 kilometres away from where it already exists is going to cost a pretty penny.  It makes dams and tunnels and trains that we’ve built so far look like children’s sandcastles.

To make it work for the next 100 years would require road and rail upgrades in the billions. Wharves and cranes in the billions. Processing and inland ports in the billions.  It would exponentially increase the traffic and congestion between Auckland and Whangarei.

Yet the executive summary tries to suggest it would cost just $10 billion.

Now I understand the capacity constraints the Auckland wharf is under and as the city continues to expand its population that capacity constraint will be exceeded uncomfortably.  But this suggestion seems half-baked.

And considering its implications you have to wonder who decided that this extreme course of action is needed and that if it doesn’t happen then the government has to step into commercial companies and tell them how to run their business.

Well the working group that is making this huge claim is chaired by former Northland Mayor Wayne Brown.  Now Mr Brown is a very skilled technocrat who has produced reports on all sorts of state organisations, and I’m not suggesting that he has cooked this report to suit his region. 

But appearances are important and having a Northland politician advocating that the biggest infrastructural investment in New Zealand should happen in his patch still has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce head Michael Barnett didn’t swallow that this morning on TV either, calling the idea political and not business. And we know politics always ruins and slows our infrastructure which is why our infrastructure is so bad and compromised.

That’s why an Infrastructure Commission has been formed.  It has a chairman in Alan Bollard and announcements shortly will come on how it will operate and what its remit will be.

When it comes to things like moving ports, the thinking needs to be free of any stain of politics whether real or implied. It needs to make sense now, in 10 years’ time, in 50 years’ time and in 100 years’ time. It needs to be made by unbiased experts not local body politicians

This is why I’m not buying this idea at this time.

3000 heavy vehicle certificates revoked in 2019 so far

Three thousand truck and heavy vehicle certifications have been revoked this year, compared to just five in total two years ago.

Stock image of someone inspecting a truck.

New figures show 67 heavy vehicle owners have had low safety risks identified in towing connections since last December. Photo: 123rf.com

The surge began last year when 2000 were revoked and is mostly pegged to the belated detection of poor work by two certifying engineers in Nelson and Auckland, Peter Wastney and Patrick Chu, according to the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).

It expected numbers to drop “dramatically” once it finished investigations that had gone on for two years and as it carried on with more rigourous monitoring, NZTA said.

Numbers of heavy vehicle certifications revoked

  • 1 Dec 2018 to present: 3186
  • 1 Dec 2017 to 31 Nov 2018: 2103
  • 1 Dec 2016 to 31 Nov 2017: 5

Other new figures show 67 heavy vehicle owners have had low safety risks identified in towing connections since last December, and been told to get them checked.

Ten light vehicle owners had risks around repairs detected, and half of these certifications were revoked.

And 71,000 vehicle owners were alerted to potential safety risks related to a warrant of fitness issued by a suspended garage.

Sixteen thousand owners were contacted about a product recall over airbag risks.

The agency also elaborated on its investigation of chassis problems with trucks that followed on from the towing connection investigations, saying it told its licensed certifiers to submit files under its earlier regulatory compliance review that ended in mid-2019.

“These files formed the basis of the desktop review that is ongoing, and the basis for certain vehicle inspections, which are ongoing”.

Also, minimum standards for such files were introduced this year, and it was reviewing files to check on that.

Government has given NZTA an extra $45m after damning ‘wake-up call’ report

Transport Minister Phil Twyford today released the NZ Transport Agency's regulatory review. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Transport Minister Phil Twyford today released the NZ Transport Agency’s regulatory review. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Jason Walls

By: Jason WallsJason Walls is a political reporter for the New Zealand Heraldjason.walls@nzme.co.nz@Jasonwalls92

The Government will inject the New Zealand Transport Agency with an extra $45 million after an independent report concluded it had failed in one of its major responsibilities.

But the Government blames National for the failures in the transport sector that led to Transport Minister Phil Twyford commissioning an independent report investigating NZTA.

The review, undertaken by agency Martin Jenkins, found that previous transport ministers had directed NZTA to “focus on building roads” at the expense of keeping people safe.

The report also found that NZTA had failed to properly regulate the transport sector under the previous Government.

In response to the review, the Government has confirmed it will adopt all of its recommendations and plans to implement them as soon as possible.

The recommendations include:

• Injecting NZTA with an extra $45 million to help bolster its regulatory obligations
• Create a statutory Director of Land Transport who is responsible for carrying out NZTA’s regulatory functions and powers
• Getting NZTA’s board to develop a new regulatory strategy
• Instructing the Ministry of Transport to update the NZTA’s regulatory objectives

Twyford said these changes would help to equip NZTA for the massive transformation the agency will undergo in the coming years.

Ministry of Transport chief executive Peter Mersi welcomed the report and its findings this morning.

“As [the] monitor of transport Crown agencies, we share responsibility for the regulatory failure.”

He said the report was a “wake-up call” for the ministry.

In November last year, Twyford directed the Ministry of Transport to review the performance NZTA’s regulatory functions.

The review comes on the back of a number of concerns which emerged around NZTA’s regulatory function and a backlog of compliance cases that have not been properly managed.

“When this issue was brought to my attention I was seriously concerned about the scope and seriousness of the failures that have occurred,” Twyford said at the time.