Auckland's port company has had a torrid time since it last tried to extend the Bledisloe reclamation further into the narrowest point of the Waitemata Harbour.

The outcry from residents and all who value it - a Herald campaign - was overwhelming, though a court eventually had to stop extensions the Auckland Council had quietly approved.

Today the company is publishing a much better draft plan for accommodating the larger ships that will soon be serving New Zealand's trade. It says it has learnt its lesson about consultation, and this time is asking for the public's input before details are finalised.

The company is to be commended for its more open approach. In that respect, we should now
all be part of trying to find solutions to port's - and the city's - requirements.

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In essence, the latest plan is to extend Bledisloe by 13m past the existing tips of the wharf, along the length of the existing structure. It would be a piled wharf, not a reclamation.

It should not present the visual intrusion that would have resulted from previous plans but public opinion, having won this contest, might not be willing to settle for any compromise.

The board and management of Ports of Auckland Ltd says the port has reached the limits of spatial tolerance inside the harbour.

Any further wharf expansion will need to be on the outer edges of its eastern reclamation, the Fergusson Container Wharf, where indeed a further 10ha of reclamation is nearing completion.

It says this, combined with some repositioning of terminal buildings, would provide the capacity reckoned necessary to serve a population twice Auckland's size.

Auckland's population is projected to double within 30 years and the port company estimates it will take that long for an alternative port of the same size to be established anywhere in the region, or at Whangarei.

Relocating the entire port to Northland would seem illogical because 70 per cent of the cargo crossing Auckland's wharves is consumed in the city.

Enlarging Northport about fourfold and railing all of Auckland's freight from Marsden Pt, as the New Zealand First Party has proposed, would be such a colossal wasted cost on the economy it surely will not survive the feasibility study planned by the new Government.

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The same might be said of the notion of relocating the Auckland port within the region.

That has been the subject of a study set up by the Auckland Council when it realised Aucklanders would countenance no further encroachment on the Waitemata.

Building an entirely new port in the Firth of Thames or anywhere in the region would seem a needless cost to the national economy.

Auckland needs a port. It has one, and in all likelihood it is not going anywhere. It can make better use of its existing area, as some points in today's draft plan illustrate.

One likely controversial feature of the draft is a five-storey building on Bledisloe for the cars and other motor vehicles offloaded there.

Going up, rather than out into the harbour, might seem logical. But many people are likely to feel such a building blocks the harbour off, rather than opens it up, even if the current plan includes a roof-top garden on the 1ha building.

Alongside the port plan, public amenities and street views of the harbour should also be enhanced on the the western side of the port.

Now the company has accepted the limits on its expansion, the council needs to get on with developing Queens Wharf and Quay St to provide a waterfront worthy of the Waitemata.