A cruise ship company says planned new mooring equipment in Auckland would allow its monster vessels to dock in the city.
Auckland Council plans to install ''mooring dolphins'' off the end of Queens Wharf which would allow cruise ships more than 300m to berth rather than anchor in the harbour and their passengers and crew forced to take tenders to shore.
But a lobby group has pledged to fight the plans, saying they could become beach head for further reclamation and it questions the economic spinoff figures cited by the cruise industry.
Royal Caribbean's Oasis class ships, which are up to 227,000 gross tonnes, could now be attracted to New Zealand.
The ships are bigger than the 169,000 tonne Quantum class ships such as Ovation of the Seas which called at New Zealand ports last summer and will return later this month.
Oasis class ships are 361m long while Quantum class vessels are 347m long.
The mooring dolphin structures would be between 80m and 85m linked to the end of the wharf by a gangway and are scheduled to be in place by the 2019-2020 cruise season.
Royal Caribbean's managing director Australia and New Zealand, Adam Armstrong, has criticised slow progress on the new facilities in the past but said he was happy the council had now committed to build them.
''It's three years later than we would have liked but there is light at the end of the tunnel,'' he said.
His company would look at New Zealand as a possible destination for its Oasis class ships as being able to berth at Auckland was critical for changeover stops where thousands of passengers get on and off the vessel. These passengers fly into a city and often stay on land before and after their cruise and are especially lucrative for local economies.
''I think at some point in the future would we put one of them into the region and look at which ports could take ships that size. I thinks it's absolutely possible.''
Cruise New Zealand chief executive Kevin O'Sullivan said becoming a major cruise hub would offer huge benefits to Auckland's economy.
The council says dolphins will allow larger ships to berth to the east of Queens Wharf and will also enable cruise ships to berth on the west of the wharf with the planned modifications to the ferry terminal as part of its waterfront plan.
They were one part of a ''phased solution'' for cruise infrastructure that could eventually result in Captain Cook wharf used as a cruise ship terminal.
The council says the cost of the dolphins would be recovered ''over time'' through cruise ship passenger levies imposed and collected by Ports of Auckland.
Cruise New Zealand says more than 236,000 passengers travelled to this country last season, and that figure is set to grow to 344,000 by 2018-19. Last year it said the cruise industry injected $484m into the New Zealand economy.
Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (Ateed) uses Cruise New Zealand forecasts, which show Auckland is expecting 123 ship visits during the 2017/18 season, bringing with them an estimated 300,000-plus passengers, and contributing $245 million to the regional economy.
Estimates of cruise tourism's contribution are reported in terms of expenditure (direct spend), GDP (value added), and employment. Expenditure includes everything spent by passengers, crew and vessels.
Stop Stealing Our Harbour spokesman Michael Goldwater questions the methodology behind the figures which he said were often exaggerated.
We're against unnecessary expansion in to harbour and we're against band aid solutions. Auckland has a substantial amount of waterfront space and wharves - the problem is the port is taking up most of the foreshore and it constrains all the other uses.
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And while his group wants cruise ships to come here, mooring dolphins meant more encroachment into the harbour which the public had demonstrated it was against.
''We're against unnecessary expansion in to harbour and we're against band aid solutions. Auckland has a substantial amount of waterfront space and wharves - the problem is the port is taking up most of the foreshore and it constrains all the other uses.''
He said the ideal place in the future for very large cruise ships was Bledisloe Wharf.
Megaships can hold more than 5000 passengers and they were not the high spenders that those on smaller, boutique ships were, said Goldwater.
Royal Caribbean's Armstrong said he understood the group's concerns.
''I get it. They are making very reasonable comments about encroachment into the harbour but a dolphin is minor and is removable in the future.''
His cruise line was also bringing smaller boutique ships too.