Aucklanders will not be fooled by a diversionary discussion about shifting the port from the Waitemata while the port company goes about extending its footprint further into the harbour. The Port Future Study was set up by the Auckland Council in response to the public outcry against wharf extensions and the success of an application to the High Court that found the council's consent to the extensions invalid.
The study was asked to look at other possible locations for the port. It contemplated just about every part of the region's coasts including places as unlikely as Long Bay and Muriwai.
It produced its conclusions on Thursday and its chosen sites are hardly less unlikely locations on the Manukau Harbour or the Firth of Thames. At least, these are the sites it recommends for further investigation before the port outgrows its present site sometime in the future.
In the meantime, it has given its blessing to an extension of Bledisloe Wharf for vehicle imports and other bulk cargo. Ports of Auckland is now once again contemplating pushing further into the harbour with an extension of Bledisloe. This is about two thirds the size of last year's proposal and the port company says it will be on piles, not a reclamation. This, it hopes, will be more acceptable.
This is local body election year and everyone concerned - the port company, council members, mayoral and council candidates and, not least, the voters - need to get real.
The port of Auckland is already as large as can be tolerated in the centre of New Zealand's largest city. Aucklanders do not want it intruding further into the beautiful harbour that distinguishes their city. At some point, citizens must say no to any further incremental port expansions, no matter how small. That point has been reached.
The second reality that needs to be recognised by all concerned is that New Zealand does not need another port. The country already has too many.
If ports were run by the Government rather than local bodies, they would have been rationalised long ago. If port companies were answerable to private shareholders, the same thing would have happened, probably more efficiently than by government design. If Ports of Auckland was on the sharemarket, it would not be still enraging Aucklanders with these bids for more of the harbour. Its shareholders would have found it more worthwhile to co-operate with their nearest competitor, the Port of Tauranga.
Ports such as Tauranga are on the sharemarket and Tauranga has bought into Northport at Marsden Pt. With co-operation between Auckland, Tauranga and Northport, the need to ship goods into and out of this part of the country could surely be accommodated without further encroachment on the Waitemata - or dredging a $5 billion "super port" on the Manukau or the Firth. No such nonsense would be contemplated if the Auckland Council floated even part of its needlessly owned port. The city needs a council with the courage to do so.