A $250 million dry dock in Northland would provide hundreds of new jobs and investment, regional leaders say, as the Government pushes ahead with a feasibility study for the project.
The Ministry of Transport has appointed consultancy firm PwC to undertake the business case work for the dry dock project, that is expected to cost at least $250 million and could provide more than 1000 jobs, including around 400 to 600 at the dry dock and the others in associated businesses.
The ministry said the proposition of a dry dock large enough to service New Zealand’s bigger commercial vessels, such as the interisland ferries, had been considered for several years by local and central government, as well as industry bodies. It is something the sector is highly supportive of.
Larger New Zealand vessels need to travel offshore to Australia or Southeast Asia to get serviced, which presents resilience issues, produces additional carbon emissions, and increases the cost of doing coastal business in New Zealand, the Ministry said.
Northport, the deep water port at Marsden Pt, has progressed its own work in this area, such as including a dry dock facility in its Vision For Growth strategy, but the question remains as to whether a dry dock is something that the Government should formally support.
“We are seeking to undertake a business case process to inform future decision making,” the ministry said.
The news has been welcomed in Northland, and if it happens, a dry dock could be the precursor to moving the Navy from Devonport to Northland.
Patuharakeke, the hapū with mana whenua over the area, said it would be very keen for its Crown partner - the ministry - to meet with the hapū to discuss the business case.
‘’But we haven’t heard from them yet,’’ a spokesperson said.
Whangārei mayor Vince Cocurullo said the ministry had not contacted the council over the latest development, but he expected they would be in touch at some stage.
Cocurullo, who included getting the dry dock here as part of his election campaign, said he was happy to see the feasibility study process starting, and he was looking forward to the “huge benefits” a dry dock would bring to Whangārei, and wider Northland.
“It will bring a lot of jobs, engineering jobs, construction jobs, and generally highly paid jobs, both during construction and operation of the dry dock, should we get it. Whangārei has a reputation for great marine industry companies here and they will benefit from a dry dock. A $250 million development is a huge investment for the district. It’s awesome news.”
Whangārei MP Emily Henderson said she was really excited about the prospects, jobs and investment a dry dock would bring and she had been lobbying Crown Ministers over it since she was elected.
“I’ve taken Andrew Little and Stuart Nash [Minister for Economic and Regional Development, and Tourism Minister] and Michael Wood [Minister for Transport] to Northport, along with [fellow Northland Labour MPs] Kelvin Davis and Willow-Jean Prime. We’ve also had [Finance Minister] Grant Robinson see a presentation from Northport on its plans, and the dry dock, so they know at the top of Government just how much this project would mean for the district and whole of Northland,” Henderson said.
“A dry dock would bring about 200 jobs during the 18 months of construction, then up to another 400 high-paying, skilled jobs directly at the dry dock. There would then be hundreds of other jobs associated with the dry dock and the wider marine industry.’’
She said a dry dock could also be a precursor to the Navy moving to Northland - which had been talked about for decades - and it was important that Patuharakeke was involved in any decision-making.
Northport said it has lodged a resource consent application with both Whangārei District Council and Northland Regional Council to extend its linear wharf eastwards and expand the container-handling area.
“At this stage we are not seeking consent for the proposed shipyard and dry dock facility on our western boundary. Further work needs to be undertaken to engage meaningfully with all stakeholders around how to mitigate concerns and balance these against the employment, community development and economic opportunities presented by this initiative,” the company said.
“The concept remains part of Northport’s Vision for Growth because we believe it would represent a massive win for both Northland and New Zealand as a whole, helping to diversify the economy and generating more than 400 full-time, meaningful jobs.”
Patuharakeke prepared a Cultural Effects Assessment (CEA) of Northport’s Vision for Growth, outlining a number of concerns.
The Government set aside $3.7m in operational funding for a study on the proposal for a Northland dry dock in last May’s Budget. The scheme was also among the infrastructure demands of Kia Kaha Northland, as voiced by Northland’s mayors in 2021.
The scheme was also among the infrastructure demands of Kia Kaha Northland, as voiced by Northland’s mayors in 2021.
The five big infrastructure projects were: a ship repair dry dock and Royal New Zealand Navy base in Whangārei, a major Northport expansion, a four-laned highway from Whangārei to Auckland, and a double-tracked rail line from West Auckland to Whangārei.