Wellington's CentrePort is scouring the globe seeking out international experts to help it plan its new future after suffering the biggest adverse event in its history when last November's Kaikoura earthquake damaged many of its buildings beyond repair and brought its operations to a sudden halt.
Most of the port's operations got back up and running quickly after the quake in a modified way with the reinstatement of its ship-to-shore cranes last month a key milestone in getting back to more normal operations.
The company earmarked 12 buildings across the port for demolition, some of which had already been tagged as earthquake-prone and others which were badly damaged by the quake, including the five-storey Statistics House while its Customhouse building will be reoccupied. Still outstanding is a decision on the BNZ office building, which is three times the size of Statistics House and currently undergoing engineering assessments of the damage before a decision can be made on whether it is economic to repair it.
As the dust settles and CentrePort comes to the end of its initial assessment phase, evaluating which buildings will remain standing, which will be demolished and how to keep its business operating in the medium term, it is starting to turn its attention to the longer term future of the port. It has set aside $63 million to invest in making the port more resilient, strengthening its ground and key wharves to be able to handle Kaikoura-type events in the future. It's currently in talks with global port experts and is likely to bring on board consultants over the next few months as it looks to cherry pick the best ideas from around the world to help it reset its long-term plan for the future.
"We try not to talk about rebuild - we talk about regeneration," said chief executive Derek Nind. "There's not very much happening at the port the way it was (before the quake) and it probably never will be. If we go to rebuild, we will get what we had, which was 20th Century assets and 20th Century thinking - we need 21st Century assets for the next 50-to-100 years and we need to regenerate the port.
"We need to bring the best people in the world to Wellington to help us with that and to have the best outcome we can. Ports have evolved and now we have got an opportunity to plan and get it right. We have got to really plan and think this through because you get one crack at it so we are really conscious of it."
Chair Lachie Johnstone said the company will be undertaking a fulsome review, looking at what it is doing, how much land it needs for the port, and whether it will continue to operate its commercial property portfolio.
"Out of any challenge sometimes comes opportunity, and we have got an opportunity to reset because of the significance of the earthquake," Johnstone said. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to reset so we shouldn't waste it."