Northland’s port company says it will “move mountains” to win a major part of the vehicle import trade.
Marsden Maritime Holdings is floating the idea of purpose-built vehicle storage, preparation and distribution facilities at the port near Whangārei, in what appears to be a direct challenge to Ports of Auckland.
MMH’s pitch comes weeks before a major Government report looking at possibly moving the vehicle trade away from Auckland, in a possible re-organisation of three Upper North Island ports.
Marsden said it wanted its idea weighed alongside a plan promoted by Auckland’s mayor Phil Goff, to move vehicles off the city’s wharves on barges, to a nearby processing centre.
“This would replace multiple movements in Auckland, both under the current model and under the proposed one,” said MMH in a statement.
MMH, which owns the port operator North Port, said it could already handle the largest car transporters which visit Auckland, and had 700 hectares of port and commercially zoned land that could be used for a vehicle import hub.
The chair Murray Jagger said moving vehicles south could be handled either by rail upgrades and new links currently under investigation, or by a dedicated heavy vehicle lane on State Highway 1.
“We’re talking here about revolutionising the way the vehicle import industry is structured and logistics would be part of this discussion,” said Jagger.
“There is huge opportunity at this very moment to change the model of vehicle importation and distribution in the upper North Island, and to future-proof the vehicle industry.”
The release of MMH’s plan on Tuesday, also comes ahead of a Government announcement on upgrading the North Auckland rail line, which is understood to be imminent.
The proposal is the latest in a highly-politicised debate about the future of the vehicle imports, 75 per cent of which currently enter through Ports of Auckland.
Goff is fighting to retain the trade in the council-owned port, but trying to find ways to reduce the space it occupies, and how vehicles move off the port land.
His main challenger in October’s mayoral race, John Tamihere, wants to split the port operation from the land it sits on, and sell it.
At the same time, a New Zealand First policy created a working party looking at whether all or some of Auckland’s port trade could be handled through Northport.
The Upper North Island Supply Chain working group is expected to release its final report in early October, looking at the future of Auckland, Tauranga and Marsden Port.
The group was assembled after New Zealand First became a coalition partner in the Government formed in 2017.
NZF leader Winston Peters had pledged a “cast iron commitment” that would see Auckland port operations move to Northport by the end of 2027.
A report commissioned by Goff soon after he became mayor in October 2016 found the gain of reclaiming part of Auckland’s waterfront for public use to be $115 million, but the net cost of losing the trade would be around $1 billion.