Northport at Marsden Pt is the only realistic option to take over some of the cargo from Ports of Auckland, a regional development leader says.

The Ports Future Study, set up by Auckland mayor Len Brown, has released its long list of 12 possible port locations that could work from a purely technical perspective. Northport and the Kaipara Harbour are both earmarked as options for taking over some of Auckland's future port freight.

David Wilson, CEO of regional development agency Northland Inc, said Northport has already been mooted as an alternative to Auckland for vehicle imports while other options simply don't stack up, such as the "blue sky" sites like Kaipara Harbour, Muriwai and the south-western coastline, including Port Waikato.

Mr Wilson said Northport was the only realistic option and he has been supported by Northland MP and NZ First leader Winston Peters.

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"There is little doubt as a deep-water port Northport has both potential and capability to handle a lot of the Auckland's freight and presents the best and most viable option to the Port Future Study group," Mr Wilson said.

"Vehicle imports though should only be a part of a much wider consideration that would take into account the logistics and support of the upper North Island economy and other bulk freight in and out of Auckland. In that light Northport has much to offer and could provide solutions that would benefit both Auckland and freight movements in the upper North Island. For example, an inland port at Silverdale (one hour south of Marsden Point and half an hour from Auckland's CBD) could relieve some pressure for handling Auckland's imports, and provide return containers for Northland's exporters."

He said bulk freight taking up wharf space in Auckland could be handled by Northport and increased container handling at Northport will provide Northland exporters, currently transporting by road to Auckland and Tauranga, with another option.

Mr Peters said the site for a new port is staring Auckland Council in the face - Northport.

"All that is required is for an upgrade of the rail link from Auckland to Whangarei, which has been run down, and a rail link built to Marsden Pt. Ports of Auckland need to stop wasting time and money and look north to Northport which is the closest port to the majority of New Zealand's international markets," he said.

New Zealand First's member's bill, the Waitemata Harbour Protection Bill, is awaiting introduction to Parliament. It would stop expansion of the Port of Auckland at its existing site and open the door for freight to be moved to Northport. If Northport is chosen it would lead to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investment in the Marsden Pt area.