A group of former Auckland leaders, including Sir Barry Curtis, Les Mills, John Banks and Mike Lee, have come out against moving Ports of Auckland to Northland, saying it would take 30 years and cost $30 billion.
They were responding to the Upper North Island Supply Chain (NCIS) report , which recommends closing Auckland's downtown port and moving it 140km to North Port at Marsden Point at a cost of $10 billion.
It was very likely the costs would be nearer $30 billion than $10 billion and take 30 years or so, the civic leaders said.
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Other civic leaders alarmed at the report are Auckland councillor and former Auckland City Mayor Chris Fletcher, former Auckland City deputy mayor David Hay, former Auckland Regional Council chairwoman Gwen Bull and former regional councillors Judith Bassett, Paul Walbran and Christine Rose.
The former leaders welcome the proposed upgrade of NorthPort at Marsden Point and improvement of road and rail links, but "object to the value destruction of Auckland's major strategic asset inherent in the Government's proposal".
"This would in effect be the expropriation of a valuable commercial asset by the central government, motivated evidently by coalition politics," they said in a joint statement.
The group said the port company was 100 per cent owned by Auckland Council and expropriating the asset would create a bad precedent for the rights of New Zealand shareholders in general.
They said the port operation at last count generated an estimated 180,000 jobs in the city and its dividend had been vital in building up Auckland's public transport infrastructure, especially rail.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff supports the port moving "to the right place for the right reasons" but slammed the UNISC report as full of bias and "politically driven".
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The former civic leaders said Ports of Auckland's assets were built up by generations of Aucklanders from the establishment of the Auckland Harbour Board in 1871.
"Its assets should be retained for future generations, not flung away on an ill-considered whim," they said.
The group believe the evidence provided by company executives that the port has the capacity to handle Auckland's import needs for several decades, saying it can accommodate more than one million containers a year with surplus capacity.
They have welcomed the announcement by the Government that Treasury, the Infrastructure Commission and other economic analysts will independently assess the UNISC working party report and the assumptions underlying it.
"The limited research embodied in the UNISC report is simply not good enough when the destruction of a significant part of Auckland's economy is being proposed.
"Let us examine very carefully the colossal task of building and maintaining the future roading and rail needs, the ports on sea and land, plus the impact on costs of moving the ports a distance from major markets. Then there are the decommissioning costs in Auckland which must include the huge loss of jobs," the statement said.