The chief executive of a ports company having to bludge a copy of Wayne Brown's "let's shift Auckland's port operations to Northport" report from journalists before commenting; a mayor consulted just once and briefly by Brown's team over proposals that would gut a prime council asset; another port CEO subject to blatant intimidation by a Cabinet minister for raising questions — is this really the way New Zealand in 2019 goes about making a $10 billion-plus decision on supply chain infrastructure for the Upper North Island?
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As expected, the senior members of the coalition Cabinet — particularly Finance Minister Grant Robertson — have had the good sense to say "No".
Brown's report will be subject to challenge and those of a more neutral disposition — such as the Allan Bollard-headed Infrastructure Commission — will weigh in along with Treasury and others on the ultimate configuration for the management of the Upper North supply chains which will cover roads, ports both sea-facing and inshore, and rail.
This is how it should be.
Contrary to the "Waterfront 2029" lobby — which is a PR contrivance — there is yet to be a consensus forged on what should happen with Ports of Auckland's downtown container port operations, even at Cabinet level, as Jacinda Ardern underlined yesterday when she said there had been no decision on where and when the company's port asset should be relocated.
Nor contrary to the PR spin is there a broad consensus among Aucklanders that their port should move to Northport which is obvious from the many negative comments on the lobby's Facebook page. Having a lobbyist ring around the great and the good to get "names" to front a campaign would not be necessary if there was a strong business case.
Nor does it need to happen by 2029 — as this lobby claims.
Ports of Auckland will not outgrow its operations in the Waitemata Harbour in that timeframe; not even if there is a huge surge in immigration.
This is not to say Brown's work is not of value. It is.
It usefully scopes a much broader vision for Northland.
But if this mission has a purported equivalence to JFK's challenge to Nasa to "put a man on the moon within a decade" it needs to be approached with a good deal more respect all round.
To those with commercial interests at stake, the report smacks of a fait accompli. As Auckland Mayor Phil Goff — who still wants to see an evidence-based, robust and independent plan — would say, it is a "conclusion searching for a justification".
Goff's referring to the Coalition pledge NZ First got from Labour that there would be a study of the future location of upper North Island ports after the new Government was formed in 2017. And comments by both NZ First Leader Winston Peters and Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones that favour Northport as the new import port.
Jones and NZ First leader Winston Peters both come from Northland.
Brown is a talented man, but can be awfully thin-skinned when challenged. He took to the airwaves and print to promulgate his report (which is still yet to published) ahead of a Cabinet decision — while those affected: Auckland Council and its consultants, port companies, freight companies, shipping firms and Auckland businesses and ratepayers were side-lined, or, slagged off and denigrated by others as "vested interests" when they did enter the debate.
Brown must have had tacit approval from Jones to go public or he would have been reined in.
The Herald has published stories based on a leaked copy of report by the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy working group. Among other metrics it says New Zealand's imports and exports will grow by 55 per cent to 2042; the cost of leaving the port where it is will be about $8 billion; moving the port will cost about $10b and if he port moves, Auckland Council will be $6b better off.
Today, Robertson will indicate the extent of the Coalition's planned infrastructure spendup (and how much will fall this side of next year's general election).
On Thursday, Jones will publicly release the Brown report and the next steps.
But in my view there has been a seriously bad corrosion of public process on this issue.
Some might even say Trumpian. All that's missing is a tweet from @realWayneBrown saying "the only one to fix the infrastructure of our country is me — roads, rail, ports."
Adopting the promoter's role did not work for Sir Michael Cullen and the proposed capital gains tax regime.
Politics came into play and it will with Auckland's port as well.
But it has primarily to stack up commercially.