A $5million crane for loading containers on to ships at Northport will take cargo trucks off the road south of Marsden Pt, says the port boss.

The German crane - the first of two proposed mobile units - is due to be operating by the end of the year and will load containers of Northland export produce from processed wood to kiwifruit, seeds, milk powder and butter for shipping to larger ports in New Zealand, or directly overseas.

The port is set to become a low-volume feeder port.

Northport's market research showed that enough cargo to fill 40,000 containers, each 6m long, travelled southwards down State Highway 1 each year.


Northport chairman Sir John Goulter said the crane would not be just good for Northport, but would be good for Northland in terms of business and road safety.

"This [container port] would be beneficial and divert a fair amount of trucks off of SH1.

"It will also be cheaper for Northland companies to ship items, rather than transport them by truck.

"This is a move we have been considering for some time and a second, back-up crane may also be considered in due course."

He said Northport was in the final stages of finalising the cost of the crane, which would be shipped to Northland from Germany.

The port had also already designated a sealed area of about 1ha towards container storage.

Meanwhile, New Zealand First lodged the Waitemata Harbour Protection Bill in the members' bill ballot this week in the hope of freezing further commercial expansion of Auckland's Waitemata Harbour port and creating growth opportunities for Northport.

Northland MP Winston Peters proposed that Northport, which did not need dredging like Auckland, was a viable alternative for expansion.

If the Ports of Auckland was prevented from expanding, Northport would be "the only cab off the rank" to take Auckland's excess cargo, he said.

He said the proposed rail link also needed investment and its development cost was "necessary to build a future asset".

The 20km rail line would connect Northport with the national rail network.