Auckland Mayor Len Brown will not say if he supports further reclamation of the Waitemata Harbour by Ports of Auckland ahead of a big decision on the issue.
Ports of Auckland is a step closer to its expansion plans after a council-commissioned study found it may need more wharf space.
The study puts pressure on the council to loosen the rules for reclamation when many Aucklanders strongly oppose more reclamation.
The Herald has run a three-year campaign against further reclamation of the harbour.
In that time, Ports of Auckland has scaled back its expansionary plan and the council has had a rethink, leading to a vote in 2013 to make further reclamation a "non-complying" activity in the draft Unitary Plan.
This was a holding measure until the council, as owner of the port, finalised its position on zoning for the port precinct in the Unitary Plan.
The council will meet soon to adopt a position.
Some councillors, including Chris Darby and Mike Lee, oppose "unwarranted ... wrecking of the harbour".
Mr Brown said a review he promised in 2013 into the economic, social and environmental impacts of the port on wider Auckland would not take place until after the new zoning rules are finalised.
That review, he said, would address the long-term future of the port in an informed, mature and thoughtful way.
Heart of the City business group is worried the zoning rules will be set before there is a full study.
Mr Brown said he would not say if he supported further reclamation because it was subject to the legal process of determining port zoning.
"The people of Auckland know the Unitary Plan process is now particularly significant and legal and we have got to abide by the rules," he said.
• Mayor promised study in 2013 into environmental, social and economic impacts.
• Reclamation rules may be relaxed before impacts are known.
• Brown will not say if he supports relaxing rules.
• Legal issues do not stop some councillors opposing further reclamation