Auckland Mayor Len Brown's office will stump up more than $1 million to fund a port future study - but it will not be completed in time to meet Ports of Auckland's deadline for starting its controversial expansion of the Bledisloe Wharf.
A meeting of Auckland Council's development committee today unanimously voted in favour of a draft design proposal for the study, which will ban input from politicians and councillors and put the ratepayers at the heart of the decision-making process.
However, the "collaborative" project, described as "complicated" by the report's author Jacques Victor, will come at a cost of more than $1 million dollars and is expected to take at least a year.
Last month, the council agreed to a compromise with Ports of Auckland, in which it promised to halt the extension of the western end of Bledisloe Wharf by 92m into Waitemata Harbour, pending completion of a port future study by April 30 next year.
Today the committee heard it would not be completed by that date.
Mr Victor said: "We're trying to make this go as fast as we can, remembering that is a collaborative process.
"Unfortunately, it still comes to a year, and I do not believe we can do it any faster than that. We're probably looking at June or July next year for the recommendations to come to this committee."
Quizzed on the time frame by councillors, he said: "I do not think it can be done by April. I don't think it should be driven by what the Ports need.
"This has to fit the needs of the people of Auckland, and I think they should be given the time to do that."
In the meantime, work is continuing on the 98m extension to the wharf's eastern end.
The money for the study will come out of the mayoral office budget for the 2014/15 and 2015/16 years.
Some councillors questioned the high cost, with North Shore councillor George Wood saying he had "real concerns" about the price.
"I think that will ring alarm bells out in the communities," he said. "I would like to see a more detailed budget before I sign myself up to this."
The project had the potential to "blow out", he said.
"We haven't got a bottomless pit of funds to be putting into this sort of thing."
However, deputy mayor and chairwoman of the committee, Penny Hulse, said the councillors could ensure the budget did not exceed the allocated funding.
"I don't want the sense out there that we will allow this to creep up to the millions and millions and millions," she said.
"We're in charge of the budget. I don't think there's a single councillor around the table, or the mayor, that will let that happen."
Mr Brown said his office was putting forward the money in order to get the ball rolling quickly, and would look at other ways to match the funding, including having other stakeholders contribute.
He would not confirm if Ports of Auckland would stump up some cash for the project, saying only: "We will see."
Key to the project was banning politicians from having an input.
"I don't think the public will buy into this without owning that discussion," Mr Victor said.
Ms Hulse, explaining the decision to leave councillors out of the stakeholders groups, said: "The critical nature of this is it's a public process. It's taking some of the politicians out this, and genuinely handing it over to the general public."
It was a "deliberate decision" to not include councillors and local board members, and to trust the public to make the right decision.
North Shore councillor Chris Darby said Aucklanders had a "great sense of ownership" over the ports area, and the public liked that politicians would not be part of the study.
"They feel we are at risk of dominating them when we're on these groups."
The draft design proposal, which outlined the cost and scope of the study, will include setting up a stakeholders group made up of local iwi and various other interested parties, including a representative of the Ports of Auckland.
A smaller group will then be set up to finalise the consensus of the wider stakeholders.
Ports study cost breakdown
Study: $500,000 to $600,000
Stakeholders and community working groups: $543,000
Total: $1.04 million to 1.14 million