Northport has had preliminary discussions with New Zealand's national orca expert on how it might work to better consider whales is the port expands.

Ingrid Visser, Tutukaka-based national orca expert, this week attended a meeting in Whangārei with Northport after it contacted her about orca and its operations.

Northport chairman Murray Jagger said orca were a port operation consideration.

An orca cruises past Marsden Point, Whangārei Harbour. Photo / Michael Cunningham
An orca cruises past Marsden Point, Whangārei Harbour. Photo / Michael Cunningham

He told a Women's Infrastructure Network NZ Northland chapter meeting in Whangārei this week touching base with Visser was part of his company connecting with people across the community.

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Northport is at the centre of attention over the potential shift of Auckland port functions north to Marsden Point, a Central Government decision on which has yet to be publicly announced. The Government's $1 billion infrastructure spend last week into Northland for key roading, rail and other infrastructure supports such a move.

Ingrid Visser talks orca with a film crew. Photo / John Stone
Ingrid Visser talks orca with a film crew. Photo / John Stone

Visser came out in strong opposition to the shift in a December 11, 2019 Northern Advocate article titled "Northland environmentalists say no to port move".

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She was still just as strongly opposed to the shift. Her meeting with Northport had not changed that. She would always be on the side of the orca when it came to port operations, currently and into the future should Auckland port's functions move north.

But she welcomed the opportunity to meet Northport chief executive Jon Moore in a preliminary meeting on Monday to look at what the company might do to better consider orca in its port facilities' existing day-to-day operations and management. The company wanted to get a better understanding of the issues orca faced and the potential solutions to these, Visser said.

The possible move of the Auckland port to Northport could impact the orca. Photo: Northport / Fullmoon Photography
The possible move of the Auckland port to Northport could impact the orca. Photo: Northport / Fullmoon Photography

This consideration would become even more important, should the port shift from Auckland happen.

Visser said the initial meeting was to be commended, in that the company had initiated contact. But she still needed a better understanding of what might happen next before proceeding further.

Ship strike is among the biggest risks facing New Zealand orca. Ship noise is also an issue.

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About 100 orca use Whangārei Harbour, 45 of them regularly.

In the December 11 Northern Advocate article, Visser said Whangārei Harbour was also the first harbour in New Zealand's modern history to have humpback whales and southern right whales visiting. Bottlenose dolphins used the harbour as a critical feeding location and place to give birth. Seals used the harbour too.