Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Mainfreight boss sees alternatives to Auckland harbour grab

Photo / Dean Purcell
Photo / Dean Purcell

Mainfreight boss Don Braid says better rail and use of an inland port should restrict the need to reclaim more of the Waitemata Harbour.

Mr Braid, the Herald Business Leader of the Year for 2011, is unconvinced by the case from the board and management of Ports of Auckland on the need to fill in more of the harbour.

"We have a world-class harbour and we need to share it between the people of Auckland and trade," he said.

Ports of Auckland wants Auckland councillors to "lock in place" a coastal zone allowing it to expand its waterfront operations from 77ha to 95ha by 2055. It has forecast container traffic will increase from about 900,000 to 3.6 million in the long term.

Mr Braid said he was frustrated at how reliant the port was on moving containers by truck and the lack of rail.

"If you are running an efficient port with an efficient transport network feeding it in and out, then you have a very good chance of being able to use the inland port to help with the overflow and restrict the additional land the port might well need."

He also wanted to see a national port strategy to stop spreading limited capital over 13 ports "fighting for a little piece of the action" and an end to Auckland councils "raping and pillaging" port dividends instead of reinvesting in greater efficiency.

The Auckland Council, under the leadership of Mayor Len Brown, has instructed the port company to double its dividend from a 6 per cent rate of return to 12 per cent over five years.

The port company, with Mr Brown's backing, says it must grow within the current zone to handle projected demand and remain a vital cog in the regional and national economy.

National Road Carrier executive director David Aitken said the port needed to expand for Auckland to efficiently keep pace with the increase in container traffic and meet the council's plan to lifts the region's economic growth and activity.

Ports infrastructure general manager Ben Chrystall said transport was an issue for Auckland, fullstop. The port was part of that challenge as the city's population and economy grew.

The company, he said, had a 10ha site at Wiri that was half-developed. The inland port was being serviced by four trains a week, but there was ability to make that a daily service.

The port is asking the council to "protect and prioritise" rail and road corridors in the future, including a third rail line between the port and Southdown and an extension of the Grafton Gully motorway at the port end to include separation of port traffic from general traffic.

The port company has told the council it is critical that in planning for growth in passenger rail, the ability to handle freight traffic is maintained and enhanced, not reduced.

Heart of the City, campaigning against the expansion, said the highway extension would cost $1 billion and a third rail track $700 million, increasing the number of freight trains through suburbs marked for growth.

FOUR-FOLD RISE IN CONTAINERS EXPECTED

The number of containers passing through the port will increase from 900,000 last year to 3.5 million over the long-term, says Ports of Auckland.

Ports infrastructure general manager Ben Chrystall acknowledges there will be more trucks on the road, but a number of factors will limit the impact.

The company plans to increase the number of containers being moved by rail from 11 per cent to 30 per cent and says the percentage of containers reshipped by sea will grow from 25 per cent to 40 per cent. That will result in the percentage of containers being moved by truck halving from 64 per cent to 30 per cent.

Added to that will be increasing the efficiency of trucks carrying containers in and out of the port, most of which are capable of carrying two 6m containers in each direction, and carrying more traffic in off-peak hours.

If these measures are successful, the port estimates that the number of truck movements will increase from about 305,000 to 420,000, compared to a four-fold increase in containers.

Former Auckland Regional councillor and planner Dr Joel Cayford has calculated that moving 900,000 containers by rail - through residential Orakei, Panmure and Glen Innes - would require 30 trains a day, each a kilometre long, running for three and a half hours, 300 days a year.

Ports chief executive Tony Gibson has disputed the calculation, saying the trains would be 500m long, running every 30 minutes for 16 hours a day.

When it comes to truck traffic, Mr Gibson said the port accounted for less than 2 per cent of overall truck traffic in Auckland and, overall, there was less port-related traffic in local roads, such as Kepa Rd, than in 2002. The company said 93 per cent of port traffic used the Grafton Gully motorway.

- NZ Herald

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