Len Brown shelves port expansion plans

By Bernard Orsman


Auckland Mayor Len Brown has shelved the latest plans to expand Waitemata Harbour for port business until the consequences for the rest of the city are known.


Last night, Mr Brown said the city needed to have a conversation about the future of Auckland's port based on proper analysis.


"Before we make any decisions about whether the port expands or otherwise, we need an informed discussion with Aucklanders, underpinned by a robust study that includes consideration of economic, social and environmental factors."


Details of the study, which is not likely to start until next year, are expected to be made by Mr Brown in the coming weeks.


Mr Brown's statement follows a series on port expansion by the Herald this week and a fresh campaign by the Heart of the City lobby group to have a rethink and not rush Ports of Auckland's latest expansionary plans into the Unitary Plan.


The Herald has been campaigning since January last year against further reclamation of the Waitemata Harbour. This led to a rethink and a review of upper North Island port freight capacity, but the council baulked at a second-stage review of the wider impacts on Auckland when Ports of Auckland came back with revised expansion plans.


This week's series outlined the port company's latest plans to expand up to 179m into the harbour, strong opposition from Ngati Whatua o Orakei and effects on the city's rail and transport systems, which have not been fully investigated.Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson refused to participate in the series, saying the debate had been running for two years and the council-owned business had contributed extensively to it.


It is not clear what Mr Brown's statement means for a meeting of the Auckland Plan committee on Tuesday, where the port expansion will be discussed.


Mr Brown said the council needed to decide on planning provisions for the port in the Unitary Plan, whether it was the existing rules or something more restrictive. That was a decision for the Auckland Plan committee later this month, he said.


Economic development manager Harvey Brookes told the Weekend Herald nine days ago that councillors would reach a decision on Ports of Auckland at the Auckland Plan committee on Tuesday to guide what went into the Unitary Plan.


Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney said he supported the mayor's robust study.


"For too long, Ports of Auckland have tried to run the agenda without a view that takes into account a range of economic, social, environmental and cultural issues beyond their sphere.


"With respect to the draft Unitary Plan, any change based on the Ports of Auckland plan to extend Bledisloe Wharf is fundamentally flawed without this study being done.


"The 'more restrictive' options that have been presented are a wolf in sheep's clothing that confuse the debate and have led us to where we are today, unknowingly on the cusp of ports reclamations without realising it. It's good to see the mayor is on to this and for this he gets our support," he said.


Meanwhile, Waterfront Auckland has released a submission on the port company's latest expansion plans, which the port company has refused to make public before councillors reach a decision.


The council body, which has responsibility for the city waterfront and port, said it supported future growth options in principle, but unless the ports company could strengthen the economic justification for further reclamation, it preferred a "no-expansion" approach.


Waterfront Auckland chairman Sir Bob Harvey said the robust case had not been made and it was time to consider options for the future.


"It's a no brainer."

- THE AUCKLANDER

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