Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Port will 'shrink harbour' (graphic: see port's new look)

Scroll over the image above to see how the port will look - if the plan goes ahead - compared to the current view.

The Heart of the City business lobby group has released a digital illustration to show how the expanded wharves would block views of the Waitemata Harbour from the city and the North Shore.
The Heart of the City business lobby group has released a digital illustration to show how the expanded wharves would block views of the Waitemata Harbour from the city and the North Shore.

Bold plans to extend Auckland's port 250m into the Waitemata Harbour are going through the Auckland Council for formal approval without a full public debate.

Ports of Auckland is asking councillors to "lock in place" a coastal zone allowing it to expand its waterfront operations from 77ha to 95ha by 2055.

That's the equivalent of adding two Victoria Parks to its space, which is already about the size of the Auckland Domain.

The company says it simply wants the current coastal port zone that allows space for future growth to be maintained in the Auckland Plan - a 30-year blueprint for the Super City.

Today, the Heart of the City lobby group launches a campaign urging people to find out more about the port expansion plan before it is approved by the council in March and becomes difficult to overturn.

"They're shrinking our harbour," the group claims.

It has released provocative digital illustrations showing how views of the Waitemata would be blocked by new wharves. The port company describes the images as "unprofessional and unbalanced".

Heart of the City chief Alex Swney said the plans were buried in technical documents supporting the draft waterfront plan, which is part of the wider Auckland Plan.

They showed how the port wanted to extend its container space out into the harbour to handle a 400 per cent increase in traffic, in exchange for offering to sell Aucklanders Captain Cook Wharf to the east of Queens Wharf, he said.

"This is a joke, when you can fit 16 or so Captain Cook wharves into the area the port plans to expand on.

"We're not opposed to the port increasing its business, but we are opposed to the plans currently proposed.

"To make matters more complicated, the Auckland Council owns the port company and is also the governing body that must approve the port's plans," Mr Swney said.

Last night, Mayor Len Brown said a working port was critical to the health of Auckland's economy and it must be able to grow within its current zone to cope with projected growth. "The plan relates to potential development over the next 40 years. I am sure it will be refined over time."

The port has taken a hard line with its critics, accusing them of playing "Russian roulette" with the Auckland economy and consigning the region to a certain and looming national infrastructure shortfall.

Infrastructure general manager Ben Chrystall said the company had never tried to hide its plans - the information was publicly available on its website - but the council was responsible for the information in the draft waterfront plan.

Waterfront Auckland, the council body that drew up that draft, said the ports area was outside its control and information on the plans was available through a link in its report to the ports website.

Matters of significant regional importance, such as the port's future requirements, were likely to be addressed in the final Auckland Plan, the council body said.

Mr Chrystall said the boundaries for the coastal port zone went back before the Resource Management Act in 1991 and were subject to a publicly notified hearing under the Auckland Regional Coastal Plan that became operative in 2004.

"Ports of Auckland is doing nothing new in asking for the current port zone to be maintained in the Auckland Plan."

The company planned to consult on an updated development plan later in the year, Mr Chrystall said.

But he stressed it was determined to proceed with the long-term plans to extend Bledisloe Wharf 250m into the harbour and Fergusson Wharf, which is already further north, about 50m.

In 2009, the port company reclaimed 6ha to add to Fergusson Wharf and has consent to add a further 4ha, which it plans over the next few years.

Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson has said that the company, which handles nearly a third of the country's trade by value, needs the port to grow to meet the ambitious economic growth goals in the Auckland Plan.

- NZ Herald

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