Councillors want company to consult Aucklanders on plans for reclamations.
Aucklanders will get a say on reclaiming more of the Waitemata Harbour for port operations after a move to fast-track the latest plans into law was rejected yesterday.
Mayor Len Brown said the council would be telling Aucklanders the expansion plans were a "fait accompli" if it backed an officers' suggestion to "support in principle" two options from Ports of Auckland.
Chief planning officer Dr Roger Blakeley and economic development manager Harvey Brookes wanted to include the options into the draft unitary plan - the new rulebook for the Super City - before the port firm began consultation on the options.
Instead, Mr Brown and councillors voted unanimously for the port company to consult with Aucklanders before the council decides what to put in the unitary plan for the port.
"This is a hugely important issue. I'm not clear in my own mind what the ultimate outcome will be," Mr Brown said.
Both sides in the expansion debate squared off at a meeting of the Auckland Plan committee that included a message from Heart of the City chairman Terry Gould that the successful Stop the Eastern Motorway (Stem) campaign he headed could be the model for a port campaign.
Heart of the City came under fire from the Employers and Manufacturers Association and the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, whose chief executive, Michael Barnett, accused it of pursuing a long-held agenda of closing or moving the port.
"Their views do not represent the majority of Auckland's business community [who] want the certainty of seeing the port strongly supported by its owners and taking steps to improve its performance," he said.
Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson said he was not disappointed at the council decision to reject supporting the two options in principle. He said it gave the company the chance to to fully engage with the public and stakeholders about the future of their port.
"I am delighted that the mayor and councillors have said today that Auckland's port is here to stay. It gives our staff and customers certainty and helps us plan for the future," Mr Gibson said.
Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney said the council's decision was "a step in the right direction ... bearing in mind the intense level of interest Aucklanders have in their waterfront".
The latest plans were sparked by a Herald campaign last year against further reclamation of the Waitemata Harbour. The proposal then to extend Bledisloe Wharf 283m into the harbour for a 22ha reclamation caused a huge backlash and made the port company rethink its plans.
Its latest plans are to extend Bledisloe Wharf 135m or 179m into the harbour for a 5.5ha or 6.6ha reclamation.