Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Auckland port expansion plan put on hold

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

Ports of Auckland. Photo / Supplied
Ports of Auckland. Photo / Supplied

The expansion of Auckland's port into the Waitemata Harbour has been shelved after a huge public backlash, and the Auckland Council says it will now review development options.

Widespread public concerns and a campaign by the Herald against further reclamation forced the council to yesterday rewrite its position on port development in the city's 30-year blueprint.

In less than 24 hours, the Auckland Plan has gone from being almost silent on extending the port 250m into the harbour to saying it does not endorse any specific port expansion proposal and describing the harbour as an Auckland-defining asset that the plan seeks to protect and enhance.

But Mayor Len Brown and councillors voted down by 17 votes to 5 an amendment from councillor Mike Lee to "draw a line in the sand" and not support any further expansion, beyond more minor reclamation that has already been approved.

Instead, a majority of councillors wanted to conduct the review of the development options for Ports of Auckland before deciding whether to place limits on further harbour reclamation in the Auckland Plan.

The review will take a long-term view of the Ports of Auckland, Tauranga and Marsden Pt and examine a range of options for the Ports of Auckland.

Councillors did effectively agree to a plea from the port company to "lock in place" a coastal zone allowing it to expand its waterfront operations from 77ha to 95ha - but the review is now the priority and the company said it had no expansion plans in the foreseeable future.

The 18ha development, which would be subject to resource consent processes, is the equivalent of filling in the harbour with two Victoria Parks.

Mr Brown, who has instructed the port company to double its dividend from a 6 per cent rate of return to 12 per cent over five years, asked for patience and time to discuss the future of the city's "most important asset" while acknowledging the importance of listening to the community.

There was a largely positive reaction to the council's actions, although Margot McRae, who addressed the packed meeting on behalf of the Devonport community, said she was frustrated at councillors for not going the extra mile.

She told them it was not good governance to leave decisions about the future of the port to the resource consent process, unelected planning commissioners and a process that pitted the might of a commercial ports company against ordinary citizens.

"Good governance is deciding to delete all references to the expansion of the port company in the Auckland Plan," she said.

But Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney, whose business group has been campaigning against further reclamation, welcomed the review.

"After a century and a half of ports domination of our waterfront, the council has taken the opportunity ... to draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough.

"Now is the time to take a once in a generation chance to review plans for our waterfront."

A Ports of Auckland spokeswoman said the company was comfortable with the council's approach and would fully co-operate with the review.

The deputy chairman of the Westhaven Marina Users' Association, Barry Holten, said the decision was a victory for harbour users but a larger plan for the development of the Auckland waterfront was needed that included the port.

Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye last night said she was pleased with the decision.

"I think it shows the council is listening to the fact Aucklanders do feel strongly about having their say on this issue."

LINE IN THE SAND

Auckland councillors voted yesterday to review the port's development plans - but most did not favour an immediate stop to further reclamation.

For an immediate stop

Cathy Casey, Sandra Coney, Chris Fletcher, Mike Lee, Wayne Walker.

Against an immediate stop

Mayor Len Brown, Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, Cameron Brewer, Alf Filipaina, Michael Goudie, Ann Hartley, Anahera Morehu*, Des Morrison, Richard Northey, Calum Penrose, Dick Quax, Noelene Raffills, Sharon Stewart, Glen Tupuhi*, John Walker, Penny Webster, George Wood.

* Maori Statutory Board members

- NZ Herald

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