Northland needs to get moving and fight for the port, says the Mangonui-based author of the report urging Government to put $10 billion into the massive infrastructure project.
"They've got to get their a** into gear," said businessman and engineer Wayne Brown, who oversaw the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy working group that has recommended shifting Auckland's port north.
The comments came during a meeting of the Ruakaka Economic Development Group, which was dominated by talk of the potential Northport expansion at Marsden Point and rail development from Auckland into the North.
It also saw KiwiRail detail development plans in the North that included rail running to Moerewa where an inland port would be developed.
At the cost of around $100m, it would provide a freight link to the proposed port for goods in the Far North, provide an economic and employment boost in the area and a launch pad for investment.
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Brown, a former Far North mayor, told the Herald he had struggled to get access to Northland's mayors while the report was being written. He was scheduled to meet the mayors on December 9, at a meeting arranged to discuss the port.
He said he was concerned leaders in the region weren't moving quickly enough to seize the opportunity the port move offered.
Brown said the Auckland 2029 group that had formed to advocate for the move needed a Northland counterpart and he was frustrated to see no such group spring up.
The group emerged this month, raising money and with its "mission to support proposals to relocate Auckland's used-car and container port by 2029". It is enlisting high-profile support, and using social media to push messages supporting the shift.
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Brown said Northland had to take action to push for the port shift to happen.
"This is a fantastic shot. We have a long history of missing buses. This is urgent - please wake up. Don't let this bus go by."
Brown was particularly critical of Whangārei, saying the city "needed to take a look at itself" when its progress was compared with the boom currently enjoyed in Kerikeri and Kaitaia.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones, who was also at the meeting, offered a similar message to those at the meeting.
"If you want the North to grow and capture some of that economic activity, then stand up and be counted."
Jones also talked up the proposed move of the Royal New Zealand Navy to Whangārei - a decision being made next year. He also highlighted plans to develop roads south of Whangārei and the Northland rail development, which has had $300m from the Provincial Growth Fund.
"I have taken a lot of stick on your behalf because a lot of the putea has come into the North but the North has missed out for so long."
KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller (Ngāpuhi) detailed work under way, widening tunnels, replacing bridges and improving the rail link between Helensville and Whangārei.
Talking to the Advocate, he said KiwiRail had put a proposal to Government for funding to run the rail line north of Whangārei to Otiria, just south of Moerewa.
He said it would have capacity for general freight, refrigerated containers and potentially liquid loads.
The broad capacity would allow exports of most goods produced in the Far North.
"Otiria would be the most northern rail head in the country."
The Ruakaka gathering drew about 80 people from local business and industry. It didn't appear to include the civic leaders who drew Brown's ire.
Those who attended listened to speakers in the morning before taking part in workshops aimed at driving growth. The meeting was told those areas were education, housing, industry and infrastructure.
Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai - who had previously said she would "chew off" an arm to get the port - said the councils in the North were co-ordinating their response.
The December 9 meeting, at which Brown was speaking, was the earliest the region's mayors could get together to discuss the proposed shift, she said.
Northland Regional Council chairwoman Penny Smart would not comment, saying the regional council's position on commenting was to "err on the side of caution" as a majority shareholder in the port.
Two of three Northland mayors - Far North's John Carter and Kaipara's Dr Jason Smith - did not return calls for comment.