Today is the day. It should have come earlier but it didn't.
Nevertheless, the North's civic leaders today meet to discuss how to approach the proposal to move Auckland's port to Whangarei - a plan described as New Zealand's biggest-ever infrastructure project.
They do so behind closed doors, and do so as Cabinet meets to consider the report that proposed the move.
It is unfortunate Cabinet is meeting without the benefit of a unified and loud voice from the North demanding, insisting, the move go ahead.
Today is the day to raise that voice, and to raise it long and loud.
The Advocate raises its voice today. We are publishing this editorial on the front page - a rare step for this newspaper - because we believe the port move offers opportunity that will not come again in our lifetimes. It must not be allowed to slip away.
We support the North. It is at the core of our reason for being.
WINNING THE PORT
• Port in a storm: The North of Plenty
• Northland mayors support Auckland port move to Northport
• Wayne Brown: Northland, get your A into G on the port
• David Cormack: Why moving Auckland's port is a win for everyone
The reports already issued by the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy working group show if the port comes, then so does the infrastructure to support it.
If the port comes, so does rail and improved roads. it will super-charge Northland's connection to the rest of the country, and to the world.
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And so, there are questions easily answered for those considering the issue today.
Do we want more jobs in the North? Do we want to unlock the potential of our largely untapped region? Do we want greater economic prosperity? Do we want a modern rail link to the rest of the country? Do we want to take freight off our roads? Do we want a four-lane highway connecting Auckland and Whangārei?
Unequivocally, the Advocate believes the answer is yes. The report contains an intense level of detail spelling out the benefits. Just one of those details captures the promise offered: A port move would bring an additional 2000 jobs a year to the North. There is plenty more too and our position is that all of it is good for the North.
This is a rare opportunity in New Zealand's history, and it is an opportunity that must be seized.
The closed doors at today's meeting in Whangārei are not helpful. They should be open, and public participation should be encouraged and welcomed.
Whatever debate takes place should hold no surprises. The direction has been clear since the working group began reporting. The confidential report to Cabinet, which the Advocate has, isn't much different from the report issued two months ago.
It states the benefits to New Zealand - and not just the North - are enormous. That interim report was enough to spark an Auckland-based campaign to move the port, freeing that extraordinary waterfront for its citizens.
Where is the campaign championing the North as the future? Who has sought the voice of iwi in the North? Who has lobbied Northland's six MPs (not that NZ First's Shane Jones needs any convincing)? Where are the billboards as you come down the Brynderwyns saying: "Welcome to Port country"? Why is there no social media campaign fronted by high-profile Northlanders?
Maybe those answers will come today, from behind those closed doors. The personal stakes for our leaders are the highest.
The working group report suggests to Cabinet the port owners be given a year to agree on how to move Auckland's port. If Cabinet follows the recommendation, it then recommends taking the decision away from the port and its owners, and forcing the change through legislation.
We will know if our councils have been successful by 2022, the next election year.
Auckland's spasmodic development since the 1970s has been haunted by the thwarted rapid-transit plans for long-serving mayor Dove-Meyer Robinson. This is the North's fate if this opportunity is missed - piecemeal, strangled development stretched out over decades in a region so distant from Wellington that neglect appears almost habitual.
Robinson is remembered for what didn't happen, and the impact it has had. When our civic leaders close the doors to meet today, they had best ask: What will you be remembered for, at election time and by history?
But the stakes are higher than those elected individuals.
This should not be just a campaign by councils. It requires leaders across the North to be involved, and through them - or in spite of them - the people they lead.
The Advocate considers the port proposal to be a glittering jewel of an opportunity that should be pursued with deliberate and sustained intent.
At least, the Mayors should emerge from today's meeting with a clear strategy. It needs to engage the public and the private sector. It needs to be open and transparent. It needs to be a winning plan.
Our communities struggle more than many in our country. Few outside Northland would believe the struggles with which our region contends. For decades, we have been more accustomed to Wellington's long reach taking away, rather than giving.
The proposed port move is about all of Northland, now and future. It is opportunity today and tomorrow. It is a better, brighter future for those who call the North home now, and in generations to come.
The port must come North.