Construction work and piling has started on the Ports of Auckland's new car storage building, sparking criticism from the upper North Island port study chief.
A port spokesman confirmed Hawkins had begun piling for the new five-level building on Bledisloe Wharf at 1-19 Quay St where work on a car handling facility building is under way.
Wayne Brown, chairman of the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy working group, questioned the project's timing and said construction should not have begun now.
"It is not a good idea to build the carpark yet. My thinking is a wise person, or director of a company, would probably not go ahead and do it. They would have waited. It might turn out to be brilliant, but it might not. Auckland Council has been considering selling its car parking buildings," Brown said.
If construction was to begin, he said the building should be constructed in a "de-mountable" way "so it could be removed in future and reassembled on another site if needed. A wise director would have done that," Brown said.
Investigations were ongoing into moving Auckland's vehicle handling functions to another port, he said: "So if that does get shifted, it [the new building] might not be worth it."
The port spokesman emphasised that the new building was not for public car parking but for vehicles being handled at the port. The block was due to be completed next year, no dollar value had been released on its value or the project value and it was not designed to be moved, he said.
"It's designed to take a roof-top park. It could be demolished but not moved to another site," he said.
The port's application to Auckland Council from planners Bentley & Co described the scope of the project.
"The car handling facility will comprise a five-level structure with a height of approximately 16.3 metres above ground level. The facility will comprise a reinforced concrete frame that will be set on top of the existing asphalt surface and supported by bored concrete piles," said the Bentley application dated July, 2018.
"The individual floors will be constructed from concrete and will be accessed via external vehicle ramps to each floor to provide the required level of operational capacity and efficiency," the application said.
The building will be able to store 1100 to 1700 vehicles, depending on the type and orientation of those, the application said.
The site is 50m from Quay St.
Bentley cited an NZIER report which said Auckland was the entry port for more than two-thirds of New Zealand's vehicle imports: 76 per cent of light vehicles and 68 per cent of heavy vehicles.
Annual light vehicle imports were worth $4.8 billion in 2016 and comprised about 9 per cent of New Zealand's total imports, the application said.
The new car handling facility would increase the Bledisloe terminal's ability to accommodate growth in imported vehicles and would have a positive economic benefit, Bentley said.
Mayor Phil Goff has said previously that under the Port Companies Act, the council is "expressly forbidden from interfering with the commercial decision-making of the port". Even though it owns both the land and the port company, the council can ask questions but it can't direct.