Ports of Auckland is planning an offensive this week to sell its expansion plans to Aucklanders, using the carrot of releasing Captain Cook Wharf for public use.
Board chairman Graeme Hawkins gave a strong indication last night that the port plans to proceed with two massive wharf extensions at the end of Bledisloe Wharf.
About 2000 people and 300 boaties protested against the port expansion on Sunday, calling for the wharf extensions to be stopped immediately.
Asked if the time had come to stop further port expansions into the Waitemata Harbour, Mr Hawkins said people were entitled to that belief.
"That is a debate in the end that the citizens of Auckland need to have," he said.
Speaking after a regular monthly board meeting, Mr Hawkins said the company was listening to the concerns of Aucklanders and planned to give some reassurances this week.
Mr Hawkins said the port's latest plan included filling in the seabed between the two wharf extensions, which would free up Captain Cook Wharf for public use.
"The net increase is tiny for the port and we believe we can cope for the next 30 years on that basis.
"What we have done is put up what we think is quite a good idea and the citizens of Auckland in the end are going to decide if they think it is rubbish or they want to constrain the port," he said.
The port, Mr Hawkins said, could not continue to operate with the current configuration.
"What we have got right now is a shortage of berth space, such as we will not be able to accommodate shortly these bigger ships.
"The reality is if we don't get on with this then there are going to be some implications in terms of Auckland's ability to handle the volumes that are coming to Auckland," he said.
A majority of councillors are now opposed or want a rethink on port expansion. Four councillors generally in favour of the port's plans - Cameron Brewer, Denise Krum, Sharon Stewart and Bill Cashmore - yesterday called for more discussion and information on the issue.
Mr Brewer has written to Mayor Len Brown, asking the council to reconsider its position on rules in the Unitary Plan for port reclamation, while Ms Krum wanted more information on the wharf extensions.
Mr Brown yesterday said he would set up a study of the economic, social and environmental cost of the port on wider Auckland - something he promised in August 2013.
Mr Brown acknowledged the desire of some councillors to have a further discussion on planning rules for port reclamation, but would not say if that would occur.
He said the consents for the wharf extensions could not have been declined or publicly notified under current rules and could not be revoked.
"Despite claims to the contrary, we do not have the power to direct to the Ports of Auckland how to run their business," Mr Brown said.
Labour's Auckland issues spokesman, Phil Goff, who is considering standing for the Auckland mayoralty next year, said the council could stop the extensions if it wanted to.
He said a statement to that effect from the council, which owns the port, should be sufficient and if the directors "were to thumb their noses at such a council directive, they can and should be replaced".
• Majority of councillors now oppose or want a rethink on port expansion.
• Port chairman Graeme Hawkins hints wharf extensions will proceed.
• Hawkins says port expansion ultimately a decision for Aucklanders.
• Mayor Len Brown set to announce study of impact of port on the city.
• Labour's Phil Goff says council can sack ports board if it proceeds with port expansion.