The Minister for Regional Economic Development has sought advice on whether the Government could stop the Auckland Council-owned Ports of Auckland from building a new multi-level waterfront carparking block.
Shane Jones said this morning he would do all he could to stop the development, referring to Northland MP Winston Peters' plans to divert cars coming into Auckland by bringing them instead into Marsden Point's Northport.
"This is a deliberate undermining of the Government's Upper North Island ports strategy study," Jones said of the port's plan, referring to a planned February release date.
He was responding to today's Herald opinion piece Port's wharf plan and why it must be stopped.
"I've asked officials in [the Ministry of] Transport for advice on what statutory powers we have to prevent the carpark," Jones said, vowing he would do all he could to halt it. "I hope to hear back this afternoon."
Businessman and former civic leader Wayne Brown chairs the Upper North Island Supply Chain Study, a working party looking at whether existing ports and transport infrastructure is fit for purpose.
Late last year, it was reported that the days of Waitematā Harbour views being spoiled by rows of cars on Captain Cook Wharf could be over due to the port's new master plan, which included the dominant new carparking block.
In November, the port company released a draft 30-year master plan for its 77ha site and that revealed plans for the five-storey parking building topped with a 1ha waterfront park which it said would be accessible to the public.
And the carpark and that top-storey park could be connected to a five-storey hotel on Quay St at the city end of the port, if the port gets its way.
The port indicated it wanted the carpark on Bledisloe Wharf - to free up space on nearby Captain Cook Wharf.
The council has been eyeing Captain Cook Wharf as the city's main new cruise ship terminal but that would require an extension at a cost of $50m to $100m.
Further comment on Jones' statements have been sought from the port company this morning.
Jones called for Mayor Phil Goff to stop the block.
But Goff has said that under the Port Companies Act, the council is "expressly forbidden from interfering with the commercial decision-making of the port".
Jones said the port occupied "grossly subsidised land and it's no wonder Auckland rates are so high because ratepayers are subsidising the port to be on that land. This carpark makes a mockery of all the plans to beautify and modernise Auckland as an international destination. To put a six-level carparking building on grossly subsidised land ... as a NZ First MP and a member of Cabinet, I find that grossly offensive."
A ports spokesman objected to the reference to a six-level parking block, saying it was only five levels.
The coalition agreement between Labour and NZ First agreed to "commissioning a feasibility study on the options for moving the Ports of Auckland, including giving Northport serious consideration".
North Shore councillor Chris Darby, who chairs the council's planning committee, said with the Upper North Island ports study imminent it appears premature to proceed with pulling the trigger on construction of the car-handling facility.
"I can understand proceeding with consenting, not the build," he said.