A majority of Auckland councillors are now opposed or want a rethink on port expansion.

The majority was achieved this afternoon when councillor Denise Krum joined councillors Cameron Brewer and Sharon Stewart in calling for the issue to be re-examined.

Auckland's mayor, Len Brown, who does not want to stop Ports of Auckland plans to build two massive wharf extensions next month, is now in the minority.

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A core of eight councillors - Chris Darby, Cathy Casey, Ross Clow, Chris Fletcher, Mike Lee, Wayne Walker, John Watson and George Wood - directly oppose the port expansion into the Waitemata Harbour.

Mr Brown has ignored the message from yesterday's protest of about 2000 people and 300 boats in the city who want an immediate stop to the extensions to Bledisloe Wharf.

However, he said today he would set up a study of the economic, social and environmental impact of the port on wider Auckland, which he promised in August 2013.

Ms Krum said she was unclear about the council's position on the wharf extensions and whether legally the council can get back into the trenches on planning provisions for the port precinct in the Unitary Plan.

She said things had changed over the past three weeks and the council would be negligent to bury its head in the sand.

"We need some leadership with this issue. There is no singular leadership driven, 'let's take councillors on a journey here'. Let's have all the information," she said.

"I'm also really quite miffed. I have heard nothing from the ports themselves. As someone who wants to back their business because I see the contribution they need to make to Auckland. As a shareholder, where are they in this foray?"

The Ports of Auckland board is meeting today but it is unclear if the the board, chaired by Graeme Hawkins, will make a public statement in response to the public outcry over the plans.

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Mr Brewer has today written to Mr Brown asking him to convene a meeting of the governing body to reconsider the council's position on reclamation rules in the Unitary Plan for mediation.

In August 2013, the council voted for tough "non-complying" rules for reclamation in the Unitary Plan, but twice in the past five weeks it has voted to ease these rules to "discretionary" status requiring public notification.

A secret legal opinion obtained by the Herald shows the council could have pushed for tougher rules against port expansion.

Mr Brewer took part in a secret vote last month on the side of Mr Brown and his deputy Penny Hulse to ease the August 2013 rules for port expansion.

"I thought I was doing the right thing by supporting tightening the old reclamation rules that were in existence from 1987 to 2013, but it's clear that's still not going far enough to appease the Auckland community."

The council has argued it has not voted for more lenient rules on reclamation, saying the new "discretionary" status and other regulations are tougher than the current rules in the regional coastal plan.

"I have yet to change my vote," Mr Brewer says in the letter. "But like others, I am calling for these matters to be formally revisited by the governing body in a calm and collected way with all the information new and old presented without fear of favour.

"Given the significant level of public interest, we at least owe that to Aucklanders."

Large crowds gathered at the end of Queens Wharf Auckand to protest against Auckland Councils and Ports of Auckland expansion plan for Bledisloe Wharf. Photo / Jason Dorday
Large crowds gathered at the end of Queens Wharf Auckand to protest against Auckland Councils and Ports of Auckland expansion plan for Bledisloe Wharf. Photo / Jason Dorday

Another councillor who voted to ease rules for port reclamation, Howick's Sharon Stewart, has also come out in favour of a rethink on port expansion.

Mrs Stewart said she was never totally happy about voting to ease the rules and wanted an opportunity to revisit the issue "and have more information put toward us".

"People do understand that the port is very important to Auckland. Whatever we do we have to make sure we do it right," she said.

The ports company is planning two wharf extensions about 100m into the Waitemata Harbour at the end of Bledisloe Wharf and says it plans to reclaim 3ha of seabed between them over time.

The wharf extensions were approved by the council late last year, without councillors and the public knowing anything about them.

The protest against port extensions featured a flotilla of about 300 vessels.
The protest against port extensions featured a flotilla of about 300 vessels.

Mr Brown has refused to budge on his position.

Asked on on Radio New Zealand's Morning Report today if he wanted to see the extensions go ahead, Mr Brown said the council-owned port had 37 per cent of the country's trade running through it and it was hugely critical to Auckland and New Zealand.

"We need to be listening to them as well as balancing the concerns of our community with regard to the harbour and the environment," Mr Brown said.

He said he would be announcing a working party this week to undertake the wider study.

Sailing legend Chris Dickson talks to large crowds gathered at the end of Queens Wharf. Photo / Jason Dorday
Sailing legend Chris Dickson talks to large crowds gathered at the end of Queens Wharf. Photo / Jason Dorday

Labour's Auckland issues spokesman Phil Goff said the council could stop the wharf extensions and further reclamation if it wanted to.

"As owner the council is custodian of the port and harbour on behalf of all Aucklanders. It has the right and the power to protect the harbour from damage by further commercial encroachment.

"A clear statement from Auckland Council that it does not want Bledisloe Wharf to encroach further on the harbour should be sufficient to stop the extension of the wharf and further reclamation," Mr Goff said.

Whatever the legal restrictions on its power as regulator, Mr Goff said, the council also owned the port and it would be an "extraordinarily unwise Port Authority that would contradict a clear and strong statement by its owners".

"The directors of the ports are appointed by Council. If they were to thumb their noses at such a council directive, they can and should be replaced," he said.

Mr Goff, who is considering standing for the mayoralty next year, said Aucklanders had expressed their views that they do not want further filling in of the harbour.

"Aucklanders have expressed their views that they don't want further infilling of the harbour... including some of Auckland's foremost business leaders.

"Ports of Auckland has not demonstrated the need to extend the wharf. Nobody believes that infilling the harbour to provide further storage space for imported cars is a good idea and that there are not other more acceptable alternatives worth considering," Mr Goff said.