The chairmen of Port of Tauranga and Northport, the ports most likely to absorb Auckland cargoes if the city's port was wound up, say they are ready to discuss next steps in proposed sector reform.
Northport chairman Murray Jagger said the port had a "very clear vision" of the role it could play in the economic growth of Northland, Auckland and New Zealand.
He hoped to convene a meeting of the chairs of the three companies involved in the reform proposed by a Government-appointed working party. Its final report was published today.
The Herald received a leaked report two weeks ago and has extensively reported on its contents, but industry stakeholders did not receive copies until yesterday.
• Ports of Auckland fights back: Study estimates $626m import cost rise, more carbon emissions
• Ports of Auckland has to move, says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
• Premium - Major study says Ports of Auckland should close, Northport be developed
• Ports of Auckland wants to dredge 2.5 million cubic metres of sediment from Waitematā Harbour
The report concluded it was not economically or environmentally viable for the Auckland port's cargo operations to continue, and that they should be shifted to Northport, at Marsden Pt near Whangarei.
Port of Tauranga chairman David Pilkington said if it was widely accepted, as it appeared to be, that the Ports of Auckland could not continue to operate indefinitely and needed to move, then a "sensible" outcome would be for Tauranga and Northport to absorb its operations over a period of time.
"We have welcomed an informed debate around the facts. The important thing I believe here is that the owners of the Ports of Auckland have to accept this as a potential outcome and engage on the process on how that might occur - or not.
"Therein lies the problem. Because even though Ports of Auckland has made comments that the port will have to move, it's only a question of time, the words seem inconsistent with proceeding to build a multi-million dollar carpark ... and apply for a dredging consents through their dredging partner to dredge the Waitemata Harbour."
Ports of Auckland leaders have yet to comment on the release of the working party's final report.
Jagger said significant growth was possible at Northport.
"We have been clear for many years that we stand ready to assist in any way we can to support Auckland's growth and the aspirations Aucklanders have for their waterfront.
"We've been making headway with plans to enhance our ability to handle a substantial increase in the volume of container traffic crossing our wharf, while working on a vision for the total overhaul of the new and used car [import] business model.
"At the heart of which stands the immense amount of development land on our doorstep."
Jagger said Northport had also been working closely with MBIE and the Defence Force to develop a concept for a shipyard and floating drydock facility to support the maintenance needs of commercial shipping and the Navy.
"None of this however is viable without absolute acknowledgment from central government that the transport infrastructure of the upper North Island needs to change almost beyond recognition."
Tauranga's Pilkington said the 300,000 vehicles landed on the Auckland waterfront a year could be switched to Tauranga or Northport or both.
The Port of Tauranga was not advocating taking all Auckland's cargo - though had space enough to do so tomorrow, he said.
"We are not advocating that because we think there is a role for Northport to take cargo destined for the northwest Auckland area. We wouldn't see ourselves having to take all of the growth.
"Northport could start to take the pressure off congestion in Auckland."
Northport's Jagger: "We need to digest the ramifications of what we've seen and heard today and flesh out a win-win-win situation not just for our three communities but for all of New Zealand.
"We then need to seek the input of tangata whenua, our wider communities and business and civic leadership before bringing these suggestions to government."