It's one of the most heated political disputes in the country but a group of high profile visitors to the Ports of Auckland picket line yesterday said they were not there for political reasons and did not know what the dispute was about.

Canterbury Bulldogs assistant coach Jim Dymock and four league players joined striking port workers ahead of today's match against the Warriors.

The players - New Zealand-born Sam Kasiano and former Kiwi internationals Frank Pritchard, Marty Taupau and Greg Eastwood - were banned from speaking to the media.

But Dymock said the players wanted to come to the picket line to show their support for the port workers.


Dymock's brother Angelo, who joined him at the picket line yesterday, works at Port Botany in Sydney. Their brother, late father and late grandfather were also port workers.

"We're not making any political statements," Dymock said. "We're trying to lift the spirits of the people."

The four players held placards supporting the workers.

Asked what he knew about the dispute, Dymock said he knew nothing. "I don't want to know anything about it. I'm just here to lend my support."

Maritime Union of New Zealand national president Garry Parsloe said the visit by Dymock and the players had lifted the morale of the workers, and he had no issue with their lack of understanding of the "ins and outs" of the dispute.

"They are standing alongside the workers that are being bullied by the port company. They know that the workers are under attack, they're not stupid," said Parsloe.

Meanwhile, Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the dispute was hitting members in the pocket.

"It's become a complete and utter pain in the neck. Our members have been facing higher costs."


A small Auckland food supply business was forced to stop production on one line because it was uneconomic to send it to another port, Rich said.

Other members stopped using Ports of Auckland months ago because it was unreliable.

"It's a good example of how there are other [economic] costs, rather than the ones others are focusing on at the ports. This sort of thing is affecting the productivity of the city, if not the country," she said.

Foodstuffs spokeswoman Antoinette Shallue said the strike could disrupt the supply of some products to the chain's supermarkets.