Northport sits in the Whangārei electorate and as MP for Whangārei I want to state my position on the recent port proposals. If the ports of Auckland are to move then I will work to get the very best evidence for Northport to be part of the solution. I will fight our corner.
What does it mean to fight our corner? I am currently fighting our corner for four lanes from Whangārei to Auckland but ports are the topic and so I will give a real-life port related example.
During the next few months I am hearing that a dry dock will be announced for Northport. A dry dock is a dock for large ships such as the inter island ferry that weigh thousands of tonnes. They come into a dry dock to be refitted and maintained.
There are many trading ships sailing around New Zealand as well as cruise ships and navy vessels. The only dry dock in New Zealand is at the navy base in Devonport and it is prioritised for the navy. However, new navy vessels are now too large for even the dry dock at Devonport.
An alternative used to be dry docks in Australia but many of these have closed and Singapore is often the next alternative. One can imagine the cost of sailing large ships between Singapore and New Zealand for dry dock purposes - an expensive exercise.
I first became interested in a dry dock for Whangārei in 2015 when I was approached by various shipping interests which outlined the business case and why Whangārei was a good location.
On December 15, 2015 I arranged a meeting of Northport, Port Nikau and Golden Bay Cement, and key local stakeholders to discuss a dry dock. The meeting was productive and various locations and types of docks were discussed.
Over the following year a group of local stakeholders did further work advancing the dry dock concept. During this time I was having meetings in Wellington with international dry dock operators encouraging them to come to Whangārei.
Almost a year later, on September 9, 2016, a major international dry dock operator came to Whangārei to discuss a dry dock. We met at the Northland Regional Council chambers in Water St and around the table were local stakeholders, mayors, local and regional councillors and myself.
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The company was keen to be part of a dry dock operation in New Zealand but they made it very clear that there were two competing alternatives, Whangārei or Shakespeare Bay in Picton. Each had positive and negative features.
Over the following months I communicated with the company and fought our corner extolling the virtues of Whangārei and our high-quality marine sector. My good friend and National MP for Kaikoura, Stewart Smith, did exactly the same for Shakespeare Bay in the Kaikoura electorate. We were fighting our corners.
On November 14, 2016 the Kaikoura earthquake happened. The next day there were pictures of damage to Picton Wharf with containers cast around. I was having further discussions with the company at the time and pointed out that a dry dock needed a seismically stable environment and that Northland has very low seismic activity. Shakespeare Bay was removed from the list. I fought our corner.
When the dry dock is finally announced it will be an acknowledgement to many people (including before I became MP), who dreamed of a dry dock adding to Whangārei's growing and important marine sector. That dream may be about to be realised.
• Dr Shane Reti is the Member of Parliament for Whangārei electorate.