Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Revealed: the new plans to expand Auckland's port

Ports of Auckland is renewing its efforts to extend the city's port into the Waitemata Harbour with a scaled-back plan, writes Bernard Orsman.

Ports of Auckland have put forward two new proposals to extend the port into Waitemata Harbour. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Ports of Auckland have put forward two new proposals to extend the port into Waitemata Harbour. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Ports of Auckland is making a fresh bid to extend the city's port into the Waitemata Harbour after a public backlash last year sunk plans to expand 283m into the harbour.

Ports chief executive Tony Gibson yesterday acknowledged that last year's plans were unacceptable and hoped the scaled-back plans would lead to a harmonious relationship with Aucklanders.

Instead of expanding its waterfront operations from 77ha to 99ha and 283m into the harbour, the ports company has put forward two proposals to handle a projected doubling in freight across the wharves.

The first option involves expanding Bledisloe Wharf 135m into the harbour for a 5.5ha expansion and keeping Captain Cook Wharf for cargo, such as used cars. The second option involves expanding Bledisloe Wharf 179m into the harbour for a 6.6ha expansion to free up Captain Cook Wharf for public use.

A Herald poll of 1000 Aucklanders last September found more than three-quarters wanted more wharf space opened up to the public.

The latest plans by Ports of Auckland were sparked by a Herald campaign last year against further reclamation of the Waitemata Harbour.

That idea caused a huge public backlash, a rethink by the Auckland Council to port expansion plans and a study of the freight demands of the three upper North Island ports.

The study, by PricewaterhouseCoopers and released in November, found Auckland would have to fill in more of the harbour if it wanted to open up more of its waterfront. The alternative was to limit the amount of cargo it handles and lose business to Tauranga and Northland.

"I hope Aucklanders realise we have listened and done a lot of work on how we can make the port more efficient and double throughput without much expansion," Mr Gibson said.

The port company is looking at a four- to five-year timetable to obtain resource consents and make a start on reclaiming more of the harbour to cope with a new generation of larger container ships.

Work is underway on the second stage to expand the Fergusson container terminal.

Last night, Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney, whose group has campaigned against port expansion, said the latest plans would block harbour views from Queens Wharf.

"A year ago, the ports tried to sneak a 283m extension out into the harbour and Aucklanders said an emphatic 'No'.

"Now they want a 179m extension and are asking us to thank them for it," he said.

Mr Swney said there was no rush for Aucklanders to buy into the "hysteria" of the port's agenda when all the company needed to do was improve their efficiencies and grow their business on the current footprint while the council determines the best long-term plan for the waterfront.

"Cities as close as Sydney and Melbourne are transforming their waterfronts by building new ports. They are taking a long-term view. They understand the real value of city centre waterfront space - and it's not for increasing industrialised stacks of containers," he said.

Like it or not, Mr Gibson said, the economy was growing, Auckland was part of that growth and the port company was positioned to deliver higher dividends to its sole shareholder, Auckland Council, to benefit the city.

It would cost $4 billion to move the Auckland port, Mr Gibson said.

He said the plans to limit expansion were also predicated on improving labour productivity and efficiency on the wharves - a reference to the 18-month-long industrial dispute that remains unresolved.

"We have to be as good, if not better, in terms of productivity with Tauranga and we have to have the same, if not better, cost base as Tauranga. Why? Because 63 per cent of New Zealand's freight comes through those two ports.

"For the good of NZ Inc we have got to have a much more efficient supply chain. Will we get there? Yes, we will. We have to. It's too important," he said.

Mayor Len Brown said he was pleased the ports had listened to Aucklanders' concerns and come up with a more sensible and balanced proposal, but stopped short of supporting the options or expressing a preference.

Mr Brown said he would be interested to hear what Aucklanders have to say on the future of Captain Cook Wharf.

Councillors will discuss the options on April 16 and set up a process for public consultation.

New Plans to expand port

- NZ Herald

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