Ports of Tauranga has no immediate plans to gobble up its rival business in Auckland.

Mayoral candidate John Tamihere yesterday outlined plans to sell Ports of Auckland, saying Ports of Tauranga will be in "boots and all" when the company is split, with the business going on the block and keeping the land in public hands.

It could also be sold to interests as far away as Singapore, he said.

Under Tamihere's proposal, the new port owners would lease the land from the council at a commercial rate for up to 25 years to develop an agreed exit strategy.

"The port must move, but exactly where it moves to will be part of ongoing discussions," he said.

Auckland Mayoral candidate John Tamihere. Photo / Dean Purcell
Auckland Mayoral candidate John Tamihere. Photo / Dean Purcell

Ports of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns told the Herald everyone, including the board and management of Ports of Auckland, agrees the port needs to move from 77ha of prime real estate in the heart of Auckland City.

Cairns said there are widely differing views around the timeframe and the process of relocating Ports of Auckland's freight demand.

"What we need is a clear plan to ensure the optimum outcome that is supported by robust economic analysis and one that will enable a seamless transition with minimum disruption to imports and export flows and will ensure that appropriate capital investment lead-times can be coordinated," he said.

Cairns backs the ports study set up by the Government to look at how the existing ports at Auckland, Marsden Point and Tauranga could be reconfigured to provide the best options for long-term growth.

The first of three progress reports from a working group in April suggested an inland port in west Auckland and a vehicle importing and servicing centre at Northport among a dozen potential transport investments to improve freight handling in the upper North Island.

The working group plans to report back to the Government in June with options and complete more detailed costings and recommendations in September.


Cairns said Ports of Tauranga is particularly keen to see the robust economic analysis that has been promised in June.

"Hopefully this report will provide a catalyst for a wider debate around the plan to move Ports of Auckland," he said.

Cairns said Ports of Tauranga has capacity to almost double its container business on the current footprint and Northport has substantial land available to accommodate both bulk cargoes such as cars as well as the ability to grow a container business.

Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns.
Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns.

"As has already been pointed out in the initial working group report, significant spend in road and or infrastructure in Northland will be required. What is missing is an agreed plan and timetable. We welcome the opportunity to input into this," he said.

Asked about selling the port when some of its business could be moved elsewhere, Tamihere said he was trying to maximise its current value rather than see it go through the floor later on.

He said there is no ability for the port to shift out of Auckland in the next 12 to 15 years because of the lack of infrastructure to Northport and linking Tauranga.

"What you have got to try and do is maximise the value of your asset as soon as you can," Tamihere said.

Imported cars lined up at the Ports of Auckland on the Captain Cook Wharf in front of Queens Wharf. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Imported cars lined up at the Ports of Auckland on the Captain Cook Wharf in front of Queens Wharf. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Mayor Phil Goff has called his rival's policy on the ports "bizarre", saying it is the worst possible time to sell the port business when it has no clear future, nobody knows where it is going to move to and who will pay the cost of new infrastructure and relocation.

"Who is going to buy the company when they don't know where its operations will be in 10, 15, 25 years? It will be selling it at a bargain-basement price,"he said.

The Tauranga boss said there is "a lot of misinformation" around port issues and fired a shot at his Auckland rivals for starting work on a new car storage building, saying it appeared to be "in isolation of a future integrated plan".

A Ports of Auckland spokesman said the car handling building is part of a 30-year masterplan developed in 2017 and will provide capacity for cars until the port is moved.

In the medium term over the next five to 10 years, the building will help free up space for Captain Cook Wharf to be used for cruise ships, he said.

The spokesman said Ports of Auckland does not comment on political policy announcements, but agreed the port may have to move in line with the findings of the Port Future Study

The study, commissioned by Auckland Council in 2016, found moving Ports of Auckland to a new "super port" in the Manukau Harbour or the Firth of Thames would cost $4 billion to $5.5b.

The spokesman said any decision to move the port is a matter for the council, which owns 100 per cent of the company.