What's the most important issue facing Auckland the mayoral candidates are barely even talking about? How about the future of the port?
Most of them like to say transport, spending and accountability are the big issues, but the port sits at the heart of all three. Efeso Collins adds the climate crisis and social equity to his priority list. The port impacts them massively too.
Fix the port and make the most of the waterfront and you'll make a big difference to road congestion, carbon emissions, dysfunctional sports venues and a shortage of major cultural amenities.
You'll also create enormous opportunities for business, tourism, the life of the central city and relations between mana whenua and the rest of the city. And you'll turn an economic dead weight hanging round ratepayers' necks into sources of revenue.
The good news is that most of the leading mayoral candidates grasp this, although they differ in what they think should be done, and when, and how.
The mayoral candidate who's done the most work on this is Wayne Brown, former chair of the working group appointed by the Government in 2018 to look at Upper North Island supply chains. Brown remains committed to the recommendations of that group today.
They favoured Northport, near Whangārei, as the future site for many of the Auckland port's activities. But that was not their main idea.
The fundamental proposal was to put as much freight as possible onto rail. It was a supply chain proposal, an emissions proposal and a congestion proposal. As Brown says today, freight-to-rail is the way to make "thousands of trucks" disappear from city streets and motorways. Imagine it.
We don't need to build a new harbour crossing or any other major new roading project, he says, until we see what happens on our roads when most of the freight trucks are gone. He's absolutely right.
His group had a second key proposal: expose the council-owned Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL) to the market. "The port occupies $6 billion of the very best land in New Zealand," says Brown, "and yet fails to pay rates or dividends to council."
He wants to instruct POAL "to deliver $200 million of rates … plus $200 million of dividends, like Port of Tauranga pay their owner". Even that would be only a 6.5 per cent return on his estimated value of the land.
With this in place, Brown says, POAL and the shipping and freight companies will quickly find there are better places to unload and store their cars, containers, coal, cement, bananas and retail goods.
Tauranga will step up and so will Northport, especially with the development of better rail links. The freight industry will step up too: many of its members are forward-thinking businesses already committed to growing their use of rail.
Not all, though. It's absurd that progress on the port, supply chains, congestion and emissions is currently held back because of the influence of a group of dinosaurs, aka car-carrying trucking companies and their political and lobbyist mates.
At this point, he suggests, we don't need to fret endlessly about where "the future port" should go. The market will find a better way to handle those imported cars.
Wayne Brown's report was excellent: it's a blueprint for an exciting future for freight and the port. His presentation of it was a different matter.
Somehow, he managed to get himself offside with the Auckland mayor, Phil Goff, as well as the PM, the finance minister and then transport minister, Phil Twyford.
Partly, he seems to have got caught in the middle of a feud between the coalition parties of the last Government, Labour and NZ First. But whatever the reasons, Brown told me, "they just weren't listening" and "they wouldn't even invite me down to present the report".
But it was his job to make them listen. Instead, he gave talks to business groups in Auckland in which he ridiculed Goff and Twyford. That was never going to end well.
The lesson: it's never just about the quality of your policies. You always need the skill to get people to take your call.
What do the other mayoral candidates say?
Viv Beck wants to move the port within 10 years. "Gone by 2032," she says. She doesn't have a view on where it should go. "The best decisions for the region and the country will be informed by the experts."
Nor does she have big ideas on what should happen to the land. Her focus, she says, is on "affordable, deliverable projects to fix transport congestion and housing infrastructure for the city, not lovely ideas like stadiums and other waterfront plans that never go anywhere".
She suggests the future of the waterfront should be opened up to public debates and sharing ideas and says, "I would really like to lead that process as mayor".
Like all the candidates, she says workplace safety and economic performance must improve.
When Beck criticises "lovely ideas like stadiums", she's talking about Leo Molloy. He wants a 50,000-seat stadium on the waterfront for "all major sports and events" and he wants it to be the central venue in a bid to host the 2034 Commonwealth Games.
Wayne Brown calls the Comm Games idea a "pipedream" and "another billion-plus-dollar promise, made from the wallets of Aucklanders". Brown notes that Birmingham City is paying about $350 million of the $1.5 billion cost of the current Games, and Molloy's stadium will cost another $2 billion.
Molloy says the waterfront can be redeveloped "at no cost to the ratepayer". He thinks the port operations are worth about $4 billion and, based on Viaduct valuations of $10,000sq m, the land is worth about $7.7 billion.
Sell the operation to Tauranga, he says, and sell leases in perpetuity for the land. The council would then have the income, which it should "ring-fence", to pay for "a mix of residential, commercial, small business, walking, biking, an aquatic centre, access to the harbour, stadium, an adjoining cultural centre potentially seating up to 6000, etc".
He wants the whole 77ha port site cleared, with the container operation gone by about 2037 and the rest much earlier: by 2028.
Molloy favours the port shifting to a new artificial island in the Firth of Thames, connected by rail to an inland port south of Auckland. This idea was proposed in a very superficial report released in 2020 by the Auckland Business Chamber.
The difference in approach between Beck and Molloy is marked. She talks about a public-focused decision-making process; he's got the details of a grand plan in his head already.
Efeso Collins doesn't believe any of this is urgent. He has thoughts about a "mixed future use" of the land, the involvement of Ngāti Whātua and the need for "significant funding" from Government, but he thinks it should happen "within the next 20-30 years".
That's such a long timeframe, it means everyone can forget about the whole thing for now.
And for those who don't want the port ever to move, there is Craig Lord. "We are a port city," he says. "We trade. Leave the port where it is and focus on making it work."
Perhaps he hasn't heard of Sydney, Singapore, Baltimore, Hamburg, Rotterdam, London, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Vancouver or any of the dozens of other port cities that have joined the 21st century.
Cities that have created modern supply chains, addressed traffic congestion and emissions, relieved pressure on council income, rescued dying city centres and converted their waterfronts into inner-city beaches and terraces with magnificent museums and performing arts centres and a big mix of residential, commercial and public-space activities.
Getting serious about the future of the port will unlock this city. It isn't a hot-button election issue, but it should be.