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.

Freight company CEO says Manukau Harbour ‘wouldn’t work’ as a Ports of Auckland replacement

A top freight executive says no shipping company would choose Manukau Harbour as a potential new destination for an Auckland port.

A report by economic consultancy Sapere published yesterday ranked Manukau Harbour as the best option. It considered Northport, Manukau, the Firth of Thames, the Port of Tauranga and a shared increase in capacity at both Northport and the Port of Tauranga.

An earlier report, backed by New Zealand First, identified Northport at Marsden Point as the best option. The report was completed by a Government working group led by former Far North mayor Wayne Brown.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff called the previous Northport work “shoddy” and Transport Minister Phil Twyford said it “had a clearly predetermined outcome” in favour of moving the port to Marsden Point.

New Zealand First still backs Northport as a new location, with MP Shane Jones saying Manukau was the most treacherous harbour in the country and unfit as an alternative site for Ports of Auckland.

Carr and Haslam director Chris Carr said he didn’t know how the Sapere report had come up with Manukau Harbour.

“It’s probably about the only time in the world I’ll ever agree with Shane Jones,” Carr told told Morning Report.

“The prevailing weather comes in on the western side of the country. Ports don’t exist in the west coast of New Zealand, they exist on the east coast.

“I’m no maritime person but all the shipping companies say that they won’t go to the west coast and that in itself would tend to make Manukau the first shipless port that we’d have in the country.

“It’s simply not suitable operationally and it wouldn’t work no matter how much we might try and make it fit.”

If the port had to be moved from Auckland it should be to somewhere ships can get in and out safely, he said.

“You also want to go somewhere near the largest consumption area which is the Auckland-Tauranga-Hamilton-Waikato area.

“The only place you can do that is the Firth of Thames. It’s not ideal.”

He agreed with the Sapere report that Ports of Auckland could keep operating for more than 30 years before it ran out of space where it was.

“But New Zealand’s not good at doing this sort of stuff and we take so long to do it that we need to start working at it and looking at it.

“If you look at it from a logistical point of view, the decisions become quite easy – it’s when you get politics involved it becomes quite hard.

“The shipping companies who in the end of the day determine where their vessels come would not choose Manukau, ever.”

Shane Jones told Morning Report he had come off second best to people opposed to a relocation to Northland.

“I had professionally and personally campaigned with my leader for the expansion of Northport and relocation of Ports of Auckland activity to Tauranga and Northland,” he said.

He invoked the sinking of the Orpheus in 1863, in which 189 people died, as reason to not build a port at Manukau Harbour.

“I will prophesy that a thousand years will pass before a new port will ever be located in Manukau Harbour.

“[The Sapere report] wants to take us over the bar of the most treacherous harbour in New Zealand and dredge to a level of spill that will rival Mt Cook somewhere in New Zealand or it’ll be dumped in the ocean.”

Jones said work on a new port needed to “get cracking” in 10 to 15 years.

“In New Zealand we leave too many infrastructure decisions to the last minute.”

No decision is to be made before the election, leaving it for political parties to campaign on.

MSC Continues To Invest In Decarbonising Shipping

in International Shipping News 08/07/2020

MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, a global leader in shipping and logistics, is heavily investing in its fleet and low-carbon technology to support the industry’s transition towards zero carbon future.

Shipping can be accurately described as the most environmentally sustainable form of cargo mass transportation. Nonetheless, MSC is acutely aware that international shipping has an impact on the climate and our decision to invest in low-carbon technology is complementary to the company’s broader strategic approach to sustainability. The company operates a modern fleet and is running the biggest fleet investment programme in the industry to further reduce emissions.

MSC fully supports the IMO’s policy goals to decarbonise shipping and is actively exploring and trialling a range of alternative fuels and technologies – pioneering large scale usage of up to 30% biofuel blends for container ships, for example – on top of some significant energy efficiency improvements across its fleet.

Around 90% of the world’s trade is transported by sea. To meet the market demand while minimising emissions, MSC was the first shipping company to deploy 23K+ TEU, ultra-efficient vessels on some of the world’s busiest trade lanes (incl. the Mediterranean). In 2019, MSC set a new standard for sustainable container shipping, by introducing the MSC Gülsün with one of the lowest carbon footprints by design, at 7.49 grams of CO2 emissions to move 1 ton of cargo 1 nautical mile.

In addition, to help bridge the gap between shipping today and the zero-carbon future, MSC was the first major shipping line in 2019 to offer clients an option to fully compensate the remaining currently unavoidable carbon emissions caused by the transport of their cargo through participating in MSC’s Carbon Neutral Programme.

Inaccurate analysis of CO2 emissions from shipping

In addition to our massive investment in reducing emissions, MSC fully supports reporting CO2 emissions transparently and precisely in the European Union (EU) Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system, as mandated by EU legislation. As said in an earlier statement in December, it is vital that the raw data reported in the system are analysed accurately and take operational realities fully into account, to give a realistic picture of the related emissions.

Another recent analysis by Transport & Environment on shipping emissions in the EU, fails yet again to take a number of operational aspects of MSC’s services fully into account, and thus does not offer a complete assessment of our role and impact in terms of emissions. Nor does it support a constructive dialogue around decarbonising shipping.

To provide a comprehensive and accurate conclusion, CO2 emissions should be compared on an equal basis. An analysis focusing on shipping emissions in the EU should only take into account emissions which actually occurred in the geographical area of the EU, if it is going to be compared to other sources limited to the same area. This is particularly relevant for a global company such as MSC, which operates in all the world’s major shipping lanes. A complete analysis would show that only 40-45% of the emissions reported by MSC in the MRV were actually in the EU. In addition, a correct analysis would also show that MSC has achieved 2.5% YOY reduction in absolute emissions under the MRV scheme in a single year.

Further to the company’s own efforts to minimise environmental impact, MSC contributes to the work of industry groups and associations to accelerate decarbonising the shipping industry.
Source: MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company SA

Transport lobby opposes port move north

Northport should stick to what it's already doing according to the trucking industry. Photo / Tania Whyte
Northport should stick to what it’s already doing according to the trucking industry. Photo / Tania Whyte

NZ Insights By: Imran Ali

The National Road Carriers’ Association has released a report it commissioned from TG Enterprises, which opposes shifting Ports of Auckland to Whangārei, saying it would be logistically impractical and cost-prohibitive to do so, while increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, based on interviews with trucking companies and stakeholders, concluded that Auckland’s port provided the best value for money and should continue in its current location until it could not cope with future growth, which it expected would be at least 30 years away.

But those lobbying for the move to Northport, including former Far North mayor Wayne Brown and Northland Mayoral Forum chairman Jason Smith, say the argument for the status quo lacks logic.

With a focus on road freight, the report said the issue was not port location but the efficiency and safety of road (and rail) access to the upper North Island ports of Northport, Auckland and Tauranga. It said servicing customers by road freight from Northport would be nearly eight times more expensive, or more than $1 billion annually, than from Ports of Auckland.

An analysis of road freight cost showed a container truck that made five trips a day between Ports of Auckland and South Auckland for $50 would be only able to achieve one from Northport, at an estimated cost of $230.

“With Auckland’s business growth moving south, and Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty dominating the upper North Island’s economic growth, Northport is too far away,” the report said, while moving to Whangārei would add more than 125,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year for container road freight, compared with about 27,000 tonnes from Ports of Auckland to South Auckland.

That would seriously undermine New Zealand’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, it said.

“The decision to move the port from Auckland to Northport is being rushed. We need to stop. Take stock. Reassess,” the report added.

But Brown said the association had a vested interest ensuring that the port didn’t move north.

He described claims about greenhouse gas emissions, as “total and absolute crap,” saying goods transported to and from Northport by rail freight would mean less pollution and traffic congestion.

“At the moment, more stuff goes to Auckland from Tauranga, which is further away from Northport. Milk from Northland goes to Tauranga for export,” he said.

“Auckland is planning 50,000 houses in the south and 86,000 houses north of (the city). Where are the biggest new commercial businesses like IKEA and Costco going? To West Auckland, not south,” Brown said.

He led the Upper North Island Supply Chain (Unisc) working group, whose report promised an economic boom for Northland if the $10 billion port move happened.

“There’s nothing that will make Northland do better than shifting the port from Auckland,” he said.

Smith said the days of Ports of Auckland were numbered, whereas Northport offered the best deepwater port in the upper North Island.

“Everyone is aware of the growth in Waikato and further south, but the next era of growth in New Zealand will, in my view, be on the north side of Auckland,” he said.

“Ships will be getting bigger in future, and the risk for New Zealand is they won’t be able to come here. That’s where the deepwater port at Northport has an advantage.”

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said the report was built around fear and apprehension, citing points of weakness in the state of the trucking industry.

“We’ll see more electric trucks in future, but for now we see a significant role for rail, and I think the trucking industry is churlish in not acknowledging the $700 million put aside for a four-lane highway out of Whangārei heading south,” Jones said.

Through its Provincial Growth Fund, the Government has provided $300 million for work on the existing rail line between Auckland and Whangārei.

Transmission Gully project ‘likely’ pushed out to 2021

You can forget November. And there will be no Christmas present for frustrated Wellington region motorists either. Transmission Gully won’t be open in 2020.

Delivery of the $1 billion highway will likely be extended to 2021, the New Zealand Transport Agency has confirmed.

The project has been flattened by Covid-19 and steamrolled by the Government’s alert level restrictions. Now it also faces the challenges of winter.

But it’s unclear whether the likely delay will mean the public-private consortium tasked with building it will be fined thousands of dollars every day it misses its original deadline.

The latest assigned Transmission Gully delivery date was November 1, with NZTA previously warning of a $16,000 fine for each day it was late.

If the road wasn’t open by December 18, it was to be slapped with a $10 million penalty.

“As [NZTA] is currently involved in negotiations with the JV [joint venture], we’re not in a position to provide further comment at this time,” a spokeswoman said on Sunday, when asked about whether the fines would still occur.

Transmission Gully roading works at Takapu Road. Housing developments on the Kāpiti Coast are growing with the building of the commuter road to Wellington.
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFFTransmission Gully roading works at Takapu Road. Housing developments on the Kāpiti Coast are growing with the building of the commuter road to Wellington.

Andrew Thackwray, NZTA senior manager in project delivery, said it was clear the Level 4 lockdown and Level 3 restrictions “will have an impact on the completion date, which will likely extend into 2021”.

“As the project is a public-private partnership with different commercial terms, Waka Kotahi [NZTA] is negotiating with the builder, CPB/HEB Joint Venture, to confirm and agree a new completion date.”

Work resumed on April 29 at a number of sites along the 27-kilometre route, Thackwray said. New work sites were being progressively started as crews were re-inducted to ensure compliance with Covid-19.

“We understand that the builder has made adjustments to the programme of work in line with the change of season,” Thackwray said.

“Typically these changes would be more gradual as we go through the seasons, however all work was suspended during the lockdown and we are now heading into winter so we expect changes need to be made to reflect that.

“Many of the activities due to be completed were not scheduled to be worked on at the onset of winter so this requires a major change in how work on Transmission Gully will need to be delivered.”

Work was under way to develop a new delivery plan as quickly as possible, using local resources, Thackwray said.

He said there were 182 people working across four reopened sites. Another 59 were working from home to support the project.

A “significant portion” of site engineering and supervision team – about 80 roles – and some of the operations personnel were still overseas at home, unable to return to the site with border restrictions, he said.

Nick Leggett, chief executive of the Road Transport Forum.
THE-PRESSNick Leggett, chief executive of the Road Transport Forum.

When the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown was announced, reports emerged of a mass exodus of Australian construction workers, who chose to head home rather than wait out the lockdown here.

News of the likely delay comes after Nick Leggett, chief executive of the forum which represented several regional trucking associations, said there were suggestions the project’s budget had been cut and the timeline extended for two years.

“In the final straight of construction of such a large project, which was due to be completed by the end of this year, it is a worry to hear that contracts for supply and equipment have been cut, and workforce numbers reduced.”

National Party transport spokesman Chris Bishop labelled a rumoured two-year extension to the Transmission Gully as "excessive" and "extremely concerning". ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFFNational Party transport spokesman Chris Bishop labelled a rumoured two-year extension to the Transmission Gully as “excessive” and “extremely concerning”. ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF

National’s Transport spokesman Chris Bishop echoed Leggett’s concerns, saying the Government’s rhetoric wasn’t matching up with what’s happening on the ground and called for urgent clarification.

NZ Transport Agency planning for restart of billions-worth of roading projects

Joel Maxwell05:00, Apr 21 2020

Planning is underway to restart significant roading projects such as Transmission Gully, untouched since lockdown.

However questions remain about whether there are even enough staff left in New Zealand to complete them – or when they might now be finished.

Last week the Government released a broad-stroke outline of what could happen when the nation steps down to Level 3 restrictions: allowing construction work with health, safety and distancing controls.

NZ Transport Agency senior manager Andrew Thackwray said on Friday staff were developing plans for restarting work nationwide on its highway project sites.

The Gully route cuts through the hills beside the existing State Highway 1. FILE
SUPPLIEDThe Gully route cuts through the hills beside the existing State Highway 1. FILE

Billions-worth of highway projects around New Zealand  – including the long sought-after Transmission Gully – were shut down during Level 4.

Thackwray said the planning, in tandem with the Government, covered how work would restart during different alert levels, while following coronavirus restrictions and protections for workers and road users. 

It was too early to say when work might resume on specific capital projects or non-essential highway maintenance activity he said, speaking before the Government announced Level 4 would end on April 27.

The agency did not answer questions on whether sufficient staff were even available to work on Transmission Gully once it was allowed to restart. It could not say what effect the delay would have on planned penalties, including a $10m penalty if the road was not opened by December 18.

Works stopped on Transmission Gully at the start of the level 4 lockdown. FILE
ROSS GIBLINWorks stopped on Transmission Gully at the start of the level 4 lockdown. FILE

As previously reported by Stuff, a Transmission Gully contractor, who did not wish to be named, said work was likely to be delayed even before lockdown because staff were leaving “in droves”. Many Australian staff due to return from their days off decided to quit rather than be stuck in New Zealand. 

Thackwray said the Level 4 shutdown “and other effects of Covid-19” would likely have an impact on the completion dates for many projects.

“But it is too early to say what the impact may be for individual projects.”

About $1.3b worth of roading work was underway on State Highway 1 in the Wellington region – split between the billion-dollar Transmission Gully project and the northern section of the Kāpiti expressway.

Transmission Gully roading works at Pauatahanui. FILE
ROSS GIBLIN/STUFFTransmission Gully roading works at Pauatahanui. FILE

The Peka Peka to Ōtaki section of the expressway was initially expected to open this year but is now planned to open early next year. 

Transmission Gully, planned in one form or another for about a century, was initially expected to open this month – then, pre-coronavirus, was planned to open by November.

After this date late penalties would kick in for the contracted builder, including a $10m penalty if the road is not opened by December 18.

Construction began in 2015 on the 27 kilometre-long road, connecting Linden in north Wellington to just north of Paekākāriki on the Kāpiti Coast​.

Once both sections are opened there will be four lanes running continuously from north of Ōtaki to the Terrace Tunnel, in central Wellington.

The $650m first section of the Kāpiti expressway opened in 2017.

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

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.”

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.