Auckland's port company chairman Graeme Hawkins appears to have put his job on the line by digging in against council pressure to stop extending Bledisloe Wharf into the Waitemata Harbour.
Mr Hawkins has infuriated Auckland Council members - at least one of whom is calling for his head - by indicating on Radio New Zealand yesterday that his board has no intention of stopping work it started this week on two large extensions to the wharf.
He said his directors did not have to do what its owner the council wanted if they considered that to be against the company's interest, and suggested it would be his legal duty to resign rather than back down.
He warned the council's politicians were close to crossing a line meant to keep them out of business decisions.
His comments prompted Auckland Mayor Len Brown to write to councillors urging them to "keep calm heads and work through a considered process that will reach a robust and enduring solution".
The advice was in a memo calling them to a briefing of the Super City's governing body on Tuesday afternoon, by which time he hopes for a response from the port company to a council request issued more than three weeks ago to delay the wharf extensions until a year-long port study can be completed.
Senior legal and governance advisers have been summonsed to the briefing, which Mr Brown said may require formal decisions as an extraordinary item of business at a council meeting on Thursday.
He said he was "disappointed that this continues to be played out in the media" and would convey that concern to Mr Hawkins.
He had asked for a formal response from the company to the council's request by the beginning of next week, for consideration at Tuesday afternoon's briefing.
But Mr Hawkins indicated to Radio NZ that such a response may still be a week away, and a spokesman was unavailable to indicate whether he would change his position in view of the mayor's concerns.
Auckland Council member Mike Lee said the chairman's position had become untenable and he should resign.
"He is now damaging the reputation of Ports of Auckland - if he doesn't resign, he should be dismissed.
"The provocative comments made by Mr Hawkins this morning were quite insensitive in the circumstances, gratuitously insulting to Auckland public opinion and insubordinate to the reasonable request from the council and Auckland Council Investments Ltd, his company's shareholder."
Auckland's port company has a novel plan to compensate for the loss of harbour views arising from its Bledisloe wharf extensions.
It suggests a six-storey viewing platform could be built on the end of Captain Cook wharf, which visitors could clamber up to see what they're missing - except when ships are berthed.
The port company commissioned consultants Boffa Miskell last year to investigate "enhanced viewing opportunities" that could mitigate the loss of waterfront views to the outer harbour.
Concept drawings submitted to an upcoming hearing on Auckland's new unitary plan show several possible variations. The most detailed is a six-storey tower, or pou, topped by a viewing platform.
Loosely mimicking stacked containers, the "typical viewing tower" design features a mini-visitor centre "container" at the base, while interpretive graphics could be shown on mesh panel sides, explanatory material says.
The Captain Cook Wharf pou (pole structure) could have interactive floodlighting on top to introduce a fun element for night-time visitors.
Other ideas include a sculpture to mark the original edge of Britomart Point - where the Union Jack was first raised after an agreement with Ngati Whatua was reached.
- Geoff Cumming