The Northland chairman of a new national advisory group on where freight should enter and leave the country and which routes to move it along said having the first meeting at NorthPort ''sent a message''.

Businessman and former Far North mayor Wayne Brown chairs the Upper North Island Supply Chain Study (UNISCS), a working party tasked with looking at whether the existing supply chain — ports and transport infrastructure — was fit-for-purpose.

The other think tank members are newly appointed KiwiRail chairman Greg Miller; former TranzRail group general manager Noel Coom; Susan Krumdieck, a professor in mechanical engineering at Canterbury University; Shane Vuletich, a strategy and forecasting analyst who has lobbied for the group Protection of Auckland Harbours; and construction and infrastructure specialist Sarah Sinclair.

''It is not just a coincidence that the first meeting is at NorthPort. It sends a message,'' Brown said about the group's gathering yesterday.


High on the review list is whether Ports of Auckland should be relocated and what expansion of NorthPort might look like.

Brown said the establishment of the group represented a change of emphasis from stand alone entities to a connected, cohesive supply chain with the right facilities at the right places. The area under review is from Hamilton and Bay of Plenty northwards.

''We've got a fair bit of grunt of work to get through. We'll be meeting sector groups - shipping, transport, infrastructure. We'll be looking at rail. We'll be looking at making the handling of freight more efficient.''

It was commonly felt that NorthPort was under-utilised and should be developed as more than a log port, Brown said.

''Northland has the best development potential but has to be connected to rail. Auckland's port is treading on public feelings. You don't have to be an economist to see the port doesn't have a future there and is inhibiting the city. Do we really have to have ship loads of imported cars parked at the bottom of Queen St?'' he said.

''Auckland would probably be better served if its port, a huge area on the Waitemata waterfront, was developed to cater to cruise ships and tourism and let the other ports take the freight.''

Brown added it was early days yet and he was not talking on behalf of the UNISCS.

Minister for Regional Development and Associate Minister of Transport Shane Jones announced the UNISCS and its role earlier this year.


At the time Jones said the future of New Zealand's ports, freight services and coastal shipping was critical to the economy, regional development and employment.

"We are committed to investigating a rail line to Marsden Pt and Northport and upgrading the North Auckland Line to take pressure off the roads in Northland.''

About 55 per cent of New Zealand's freight originates in or is destined for the Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions.