Ports of Auckland chairwoman Liz Coutts has ended the war with Aucklanders over filling in more of the Waitemata Harbour, saying it is no longer acceptable for the port to reclaim more land every time it needs capacity.

After years of failed attempts to expand its operations into the harbour, Coutts said the port company had listened to the Auckland community about the desire to protect the harbour and the future people want to see for the city centre waterfront.

She said the city had changed around the port and community attitudes have changed.

"It is no longer acceptable for a port to reclaim more land every time it needs capacity. That approach was, literally, unsustainable.

Advertisement

"To survive as a port and to be a successful business, we have to operate sustainably," Coutts wrote in the chair's review of the company's annual report, released today.

Coutts' comments effectively mark the end of a Herald campaign, launched in 2012, to stop Ports of Auckland shrinking the Waitemata Harbour for port use, which has had its share of twists and turns.

Coutts, the former chief executive of Caxton Group, has chaired the port company since December 2015. She was on the board during the turbulent battle over wharf extensions that sparked protests and a historic victory by opponents in the High Court.

Coutts said the company, which was proud of its history and the role it plays in Auckland, is in the midst of a technology and data-driven revolution to meet the changing needs of its communities.

"We are mindful that the port may one day move, but also that shifting a port is a slow and expensive process that could take decades," said Coutts.

A council-commissioned Port Future Study concluded the port could absorb freight growth for several decades, but would probably need to move long-term. It recommended the Manukau Harbour or Firth of Thames be investigated as new sites.

"We have adopted the principle that new port buildings and infrastructure should, where possible, look good, be sustainable, enhance public access to the waterfront and be able to repurposed should the port one day be moved," said Coutts.

She said the company has developed some exciting ideas for future development that it looks forward to sharing with Aucklanders later this year.

Auckland Council is considering a plan to remove cars off Captain Cook Wharf for a cruise ship terminal. Photo / Ted Baghurst
Auckland Council is considering a plan to remove cars off Captain Cook Wharf for a cruise ship terminal. Photo / Ted Baghurst

Coutts did not give any specifics, although it was reported in July that Ports of Auckland is drawing up plans for a carpark to store thousands of cars - with a hotel on top.

This could be the first step to removing imported cars off Captain Cook Wharf, which is on the radar of Auckland councillors as a cruise ship terminal.

Asked today about the proposal to move cars off Captain Cook Wharf to build a cruise ship terminal, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said his message to the port company was the wharf will come back to council in due course.