COMMENT:

On Thursday, the long-awaited final report by the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy Working Group was published. Northport and Marsden Maritime Holdings welcome this with open arms.

Northport has a very clear vision of the role it can play in the economic growth of Northland, Auckland and New Zealand. Significant growth is possible here. We have been clear for many years that we stand ready to assist in any way we can to support Auckland's growth and the aspirations that Aucklanders have for their waterfront.
We have been making headway with plans to enhance our ability to handle a substantial increase in the volume of container traffic crossing our wharf, while working on a vision for the total overhaul of the new and used-car business model. At the heart of which stands the immense amount of development land on our doorstep.

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We have also been working closely with Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) to develop a concept for a shipyard and floating drydock facility to support the maintenance requirements of both the navy and commercial shipping.

None of this, however, is viable without absolute acknowledgement from central government that the transport infrastructure of the Upper North Island needs to change almost beyond recognition.

Northport has a clear vision of the role it can play in the economic growth of Northland Photo / Northport/Fullmoon Photography
Northport has a clear vision of the role it can play in the economic growth of Northland Photo / Northport/Fullmoon Photography

The report published on Thursday, with its recognition of the need for improved transport infrastructure, means we now have the confidence to have conversations with the people of Marsden Point, Ruakākā, One Tree Point, the many Whangārei Heads communities across the water, and the wider Whangarei community, about the recommendations presented to us all yesterday by the Working Group put together by the Labour/NZ First coalition government.

In many cases these will be continuations, or extensions, of the conversations we have already had with parts of the community over recent years about Northport's Vision for Growth (vision4growth.co.nz).

As my next step, I hope to convene a meeting of the chairs of all three companies involved: Northport, Port of Tauranga and Ports of Auckland. We need to digest the ramifications of the report, and flesh out a win-win-win situation not just for our three communities, but for all of New Zealand.

We then need to seek the input of tangata whenua, our wider communities, and business and civic leadership before bringing these suggestions to the Government.

Northport Ltd chairman and Marsden Maritime Holdings chairman Murray Jagger.
Northport Ltd chairman and Marsden Maritime Holdings chairman Murray Jagger.

The purpose of this column is to reassure our communities that no decisions will be taken without them. Over the next weeks and months, as we develop a response to the report, I want to meet as many groups as possible to listen to their concerns, suggestions and aspirations for this part of the world that we all call home.

I chair not just one of the local companies involved in this ports discussion, but both of them. Fate has put a local in the hot seat at exactly the time when a local is most needed. I hope people will look at Northport and see that there's someone there with deep ties to the community who can ensure that change works for the benefit of our part of the world.

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That said, I believe we may well be on the threshold of significant change here. I don't think it's realistic to believe that things will stay the same at Marsden Point as they are today. But that doesn't mean that change can't be managed to ensure an overall positive outcome for our local communities.

Murray Jagger is chairman of Northport Ltd and chairman of Marsden Maritime Holdings, a 50 per cent joint owner of Northport. He has been a familiar and significant figure in the Whangārei Heads community for many years. He runs a large beef and dairy cattle operation on his 550ha family farm at the Heads, he is president of the Whangārei Agricultural and Pastoral Society, he has served with the local fire service for 35 years, has chaired a number of community organisations and, until recently, was a director of New Zealand's largest dairy genetics cooperative, Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC).