The National party is promising a $300 million dry dock for Northport and Marsden Pt if it forms the next government.
Party leader Judith Collins announced the policy in Whangārei yesterday despite the Government last month ruling out the plan as being too expensive as a shovel-ready project.
Collins, with National's Whangārei MP Dr Shane Reti and Northland MP Matt King, made the announcement at a meeting with the Northland Chamber of Commerce and business leaders, saying it would be built in a collaborative model between government and private sector.
"National is the party of infrastructure. We know how to deliver quality infrastructure, which will lay the bedrock for improvements to our long-term productivity and economic capacity," Collins said.
"We need to grow ourselves out of this economic crisis. This project will create jobs and generate export revenue."
She said National will seek private sector capital for investment in the dry dock and the party's planned National Infrastructure Bank could also provide investment.
"This is a big win for Whangārei and will create valuable jobs that will grow our economy. It is estimated to create 400 high-paying permanent jobs and an extra 200 jobs during the two- to three-year construction period,"
"National is aspirational for Whangārei and the wider Northland region. The marine dry dock will provide a much needed injection, which contributes to the long-term prosperity of the region and the rest of the country."
The dry dock is expected to cost around $300m: $200m for the required infrastructure and $100m to buy and install a floating dry dock.
New Zealand's main dry dock at Devonport was built in 1882. A growing number of New Zealand ships are now too big for it and have to travel abroad for servicing, including three NZ Navy vessels and the Cook Strait ferries.
In the past Australian dry docks were often used, but they are increasingly at capacity and ships are having to travel to Singapore for repairs and maintenance.
Last month a new floating dry dock and shipyard for Northland was dumped as a shovel-ready contender after the likely cost topped $210 million.
That news came as the NZ Defence Force, which owns Devonport's dry dock alongside the naval base, said it expected to complete an "indicative" business case by the end of this year on the future location of the base. Northport is also a contender for the new navy base.
Infrastructure and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said at the time the dry dock proposal costs rose steadily during a feasibility study by Northport, and the project didn't make the cut with the Infrastructure Reference Group, which decides the shovel-ready programme. Northport received nearly $1m last year from the Provincial Growth Fund to do the study.
But Collins said the Government was "clearly wrong" in deeming that the dry dock did not stack up.
She said they had not talked about private investment or having an Infrastructure Investment Bank, like National was proposing, to fund the job.
''I think it's a really good idea,'' Collins said.
She said the difference was the private funding aspect. The fact that Northport chairman Murray Jagger was at the announcement showed the company was behind the plan, she said.
"Northport Ltd welcomes any and all support for the development of marine services infrastructure in Whangārei. A shipyard and dry dock of the type that is being discussed for Whangārei would be regionally significant and nationally strategic. It is encouraging that support for this is building across the political spectrum,'' a Northport spokesman said.
''It is important to note that the dry dock and the shipyard go hand-in-hand. A floating dry dock of the type being proposed requires supporting infrastructure such as a shipyard facilities, workshops, lay-down areas, amenities and a suitable number of lay-by berths. Northport is able to accommodate this infrastructure."
Northland Mayoral Forum head and Kaipara mayor Dr Jason Smith said last year the forum launched Kia Kaha Northland, which had five key infrastructure projects they wanted brought to the region.
''The dry dock was one of those projects."
Smith said the mayors were pleased that this announcement will keep that idea alive.
''We see the dry dock proposal as a worthwhile project for all of Northland as a significant development, and it's good to see this investment.
''For decades Northland had been a neglected region, and we are in serious need of more infrastructure and investment. Wellington and the rest of New Zealand is now starting to realise the importance and huge potential of Northland with our superb natural harbour there at Northport.''
The opposition leader started the day with a walkabout in Kerikeri where she chatted to voters, posed for photos and popped into shops.
Collins was in good spirits, buoyed by a strong performance in the leaders' debate the previous night and a warm reception in the traditional National Party stronghold.
She called into a number of clothing shops — taking care to admire blue blouses only — and signed the last few copies of her book at Paper Plus.
Collins also visited a new kiwifruit orchard on the outskirts of Kerikeri where she announced the party's water policy.
The orchard is being developed on a former dairy farm on Wiroa Rd at a cost of about $50m by Craigmore Sustainables. The 130ha farm used to employ three people; once planted with 77ha of vines it will employ 44.
The conversion is possible thanks to nearby water storage lakes built as part of a government scheme in the 1980s.
Collins said it was an example of what water storage could do.
In Kaikohe, where jobs and development were badly needed, the soil was if anything even better than Kerikeri but there was no secure water supply.
If elected her party would set aside $600m over three years for water infrastructure projects. Money would come from a proposed National Infrastructure Bank and take the form of loans or equity investment.
The party would also develop a National Policy Statement on water storage to provide certainty around water use and make consenting easier.
Collins also doubled down on the party's position that water was owned by no one.
''It is a stake in the ground here. That water belongs to all New Zealanders.''
Environment spokesman Scott Simpson said reliable access to water would allow New Zealand to develop more high-value crops and expand the rural economy.
''Horticulture exports have grown by 50 per cent over the past four years and water storage will help this grow even further.''
In a wide-ranging discussion Collins also ruled out working with Advance NZ, whose co-leader Billy Te Kahika is running a high-profile campaign for the Tai Tokerau seat.
Asked why she wouldn't work with his party Collins quipped, ''because I'm not insane''.
National on why it will build the dry dock at Northport:
• An available workforce.
• Northport has the room to expand and add the dry dock.
• Meets technical requirements such as having a deep water harbour that will minimise dredging requirements and the associated environmental impact.
• Is within reasonable proximity to the Navy's main base at Devonport.
• Is easily accessible to international shipping arriving at Northport, Auckland and Tauranga.
• Northland is seismically stable.