Auckland Council is seeking resource consent to build two mooring dolphins off the end of Queens Wharf to tie up mega cruise ships that currently have to anchor in the harbour.
The $10 million project will allow ships of up to 362m to berth at Queens Wharf, up from the 294m limit now at the city's main cruise ship wharf.
The dolphins will be connected by a gangway 2.3m wide, centred from the end of the wharf to the first dolphin 49m into the Waitemata Harbour and 1.4m wide to the second dolphin 82m into the harbour.
If consent is granted by the end of this year, construction would start in February next year and be completed by the end of 2019.
The council is funding the project, but there are plans for cost recovery from cruise ship passenger levies collected by Ports of Auckland.
Cruise operators have been pushing for facilities for larger ships, like the 348m Ovation of the Seas, which has visited Auckland during the past two summer seasons and had to berth in the harbour with passengers and crew forced to take tenders to shore.
The project is opposed by the lobby group Stop Stealing Our Harbour, which believes the economic figures for the project are exaggerated and do not justify further expansion into the harbour.
"We are not convinced the amenity of the harbour should be reduced," said Stop Stealing Our Harbour spokesman Michael Goldwater.
He said the structures were being built for just three cruise ships a year that arrive in the morning and leave in the evening.
Kevin O'Sullivan, chief executive to the NZ Cruise Association, said the industry needed to get the resource consent "done and dusted" for the dolphins to be built in time for the 2019-2020 cruise season.
He said the dolphins were not just about Auckland, but the wider New Zealand cruise market given Auckland is the gateway to New Zealand.
"Without that critical infrastructure it is difficult for the rest of New Zealand.
"There is already interest from various companies who want to come (to New Zealand) but it is critical on having adequate infrastructure," O'Sullivan said.
Earlier this year, the Auckland Chamber of Commerce said revenue of up to $40m was being lost for Auckland businesses because of delays building the mooring dolphins at Queens Wharf.
There were more than 259,000 cruise ship passengers nationwide in the year ended June 2018, up 17 per cent or 38,000 on the past year, boosted by mega cruise ship Ovation of the Seas and the ocean liner Queen Mary II, Statistics NZ said last month.
Statistics NZ said cruise ship spending surged by more than 18 per cent to $434m in the past year.
Auckland and Tauranga had the largest total spending by port. Spending in Auckland totalled $131.4m (up 11.2 per cent) with Tauranga recording $65.9m (down 3 per cent).