Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye has broken ranks with her National Party colleagues on the future of the Auckland port. In a statement to the Herald, she has made it clear she wants the port to move.
No other senior National MP has taken this position.
Kaye has long been a sceptic about the port operations. "I have said for a number years it is my view as the local MP that the port should shift from Auckland's waterfront over time," she said. "I have also been involved in and spoken at protests around the port attempting to expand their footprint."
Kaye was a vocal opponent of the plan by Port of Auckland in 2015 to extend Bledisloe Wharf 100 metres further into the harbour. That plan eventually failed due to court action by Urban Auckland and other groups.
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The Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy, a working group set up under the Government coalition agreement between Labour and NZ First, has now delivered three reports to the Government. It proposes moving the cars and containers business of the Auckland port to Whangarei, with new road and rail connections and a big new inland freight hub in northwest Auckland.
Kaye has not said if she supports the proposal to move the port's operations to Northland.
"There have been multiple locations considered over the years, [including] the Manukau, Firth of Thames and Northland, with the timeline the subject of debate. Any decisions in this area need to made in the New Zealand interest, given the potential social and economic impact to cities, regions, businesses and individuals. The process, timeline and cost-benefit analysis need to be robust."
Her National colleagues have also called for robust decision-making in the national interest. Infrastructure spokesperson Judith Collins, for example, has asked, "Is it cost effective and is it going to help our future growth as a country? My view is let's see what it looks like and then consider it."
But they have not committed to the idea of moving the port and their focus has been on criticising the working group that proposed the move. Nikki Kaye has refrained from criticising the group.
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Simon Bridges, party leader, has said he doubts anything will come of the recommendations.
"This is being driven by politics and by New Zealand First," he said this month, "rather than good, sensible thinking and working through what could and should happen. There will be lots of talk, there will be lots of Shane Jones hot air but not a lot else."
Bridges has also suggested the Government was not able to deliver on the proposal. "We've got a government that can't deliver houses for KiwiBuild, it can't deliver light rail down Dominion Rd, I don't think therefore we should get too worked up about this."
Finance spokesperson and former transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said last year there was "no evidence to suggest the investment [in moving the port] would lead to better outcomes for exporters or consumers".
He also criticised the working group's approach. "One of the interesting things in this report is that they say strategic vision is more important than business cases when it comes to such major investments.
"Well, I don't know where you end up with that. It means you don't actually do the hard business cases, you just do what feels good. And that's not a good way to base infrastructure investment."
Collins has been even more critical. "This concept … is Winston Peters' and Shane Jones' idea to win a seat. All that does is take around 170,000 jobs that are currently in Auckland, and add enormous cost to freight coming into Auckland as well."
Late last year she also said, "It beggars belief that Labour is playing along with NZ First's scheme to divert shipping, freight and logistics to Northland, against the wishes of profitable port companies and their owners, with no economic rationale and at vast cost. Stakeholders in ports and transport will be gobsmacked."
But Nikki Kaye does not agree. "It has been my view that the economic and environmental case does not stack up for the port to stay in its existing location," she said. "Aucklanders deserve to have greater access to our waterfront."