Auckland Council will look at shrinking the area for Ports of Auckland's future growth after an independent study found the need for reclaiming more of Waitemata Harbour is not as substantial as claimed.
The PwC technical study of freight demands at three North Island ports and how to meet them was presented to councillors yesterday.
It said Auckland's council-owned ports company had significant potential for squeezing in more containers on its site and development was under way for a container berth and a 3.6ha reclamation.
It noted that bulk freight berths was a more pressing issue and would be worsened by the potential loss of Marsden and Captain Cook Wharves. The port would need more berth and storage space through reclamation inside 30 years to cater for projected growth of 2.2 per cent to 3 per cent a year in throughput.
However, the need for additional reclamations was not as substantial as the preferred options in the 2008 Ports of Auckland Development Plan, which envisaged an extra 18ha of harbour would be needed.
Economic development department officials said they had not done the work to say what the right planning approach should be for the port. However, they said any additional reclamations would need resource consent and would most likely be open for public comment.
The council decided to review the area in light of the study findings.
Council chief planning officer Dr Roger Blakeley said further work would be done on what provision should be made for the port management area in the proposed Unitary Plan, which will replace existing district plans.
Talks would be held with the company on getting a mutually agreed development plan.
By the time the Unitary Plan is notified in September, the council may decide that the port management area can be brought further into the present footprint.
Councillor Mike Lee said the study confirmed that the port had the room to process 1.2 million containers a year compared with the present 800,000.
"So there is a lot of headroom space under the present [resource] consented envelope."
He said the company had unrealistic ideas about expanding its footprint by reclamation and this would be expensive.
"It would literally be tipping money into the harbour."
Mayor Len Brown said the study was "the beginning of the discussion" on port expansion and it would take 10 months for the council to finalise a position on what would go into the notified Unitary Plan.
Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse said further study would look at the relationship between the port and Auckland's urban form.
Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney, who was at the meeting, said the council had moved a considerable distance from less than a year ago when it was close to approving substantial expansion plans.
Ports of Auckland
2.2-3 per cent Annual projected growth in throughput
0.8m Number of containers being processed annually
1.2m Number of containers port has room to process
3.6ha Area being reclaimed