Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Port presses on with extensions

Mayor takes a ‘relaxed approach’ to work, but opponents say the company is arrogant and insubordinate.
Cranes are ready for action at the Ports of Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Cranes are ready for action at the Ports of Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Ports of Auckland is proceeding with two huge wharf extensions, despite public protests, a political call to halt work and a legal challenge against consents for the work.

Ports chairman Graeme Hawkins yesterday told the Herald work had started on the main contract and there were no plans to stop.

Two large Fletcher cranes, pile casings and worker huts are in place on Bledisloe Wharf, where the port company plans to build two wharf extensions about 100m into the Waitemata Harbour.

Some bigger gear was due on site in the next two to three days, Mr Hawkins said.

A Fletcher Building subsidiary, Brian Perry Civil, has a $22 million contract to build the extensions. Fletcher's would not comment yesterday.

Last night Mayor Len Brown was taking a relaxed approach to the work at the port, saying a council request to halt work was still under consideration.

"Until a decision is made, we understand that some work will continue in line with contracts that the port company has in place with construction companies," said Mr Brown.

Mr Hawkins said work was proceeding while the company sought clarification on a couple of issues in a letter from Auckland Council Investments Ltd (ACIL).

The council has written to ACIL, who in turn has passed on the message to the ports to halt works on the wharf extensions until a wide-ranging study of the port is done.

"Our obligations under the Companies Act are a different set of obligations they [ACIL] have got and there is quite a debate in terms of how those obligations fall on us," Mr Hawkins said.

Under every scenario conceivable, the port company would need the wharf extensions to handle bigger ships, he said. Otherwise ships would not come to Auckland and the city's economic recovery would be choked.

"The dilemma for us as directors is it is quite clear where our obligations are, despite the request from the shareholder," Mr Hawkins said.

The port company has consent for the extensions and there are no legal barriers at present to stop work.

The lawfulness of the consents is being challenged in the High Court in Auckland on June 2 by Urban Auckland, a society of architectural and planning professionals.

Reaction to Mr Hawkins' statement was swift.

Stop Stealing Our Harbour spokesman Michael Goldwater said the decision to proceed with the extensions displayed incredible arrogance and complete disregard for what the port's bosses were saying.

Waitemata and Gulf councillor Mike Lee accused the port company of insubordination, while North Shore councillor Chris Darby said the company appeared to be deliberately toying with the council and thinks it is "immune to our unequivocal requests".

Meanwhile, the ports company is proceeding with construction of a new $50 million dome-shaped cement silo fronting Quay St near Vector Arena.

Like the wharf extensions, the silo was granted consent without the public having a say. It stands 28m high, sitting alongside the existing $45 million, 2700sq m Golden Bay "horizontal silo" that opened in 2010.

Holcim now ships cement to Onehunga from its Westport manufacturing plant. That plant will close in mid-2016 once the new Auckland silo, and a matching one in Timaru, are ready.

Greg McKeown, a former Auckland City councillor, said you had to wonder why these sorts of port developments could not be fully disclosed to the public and councillors, especially as Quay St was recognised as a major gateway to the city.

Full steam ahead

• Ports says work is proceeding on wharf extensions
• Cranes and other equipment are on site
• Mayor Len Brown says work could still be halted
• Councillors and protesters shocked at decision.

- NZ Herald

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