"Once in a lifetime" is a term which has become as over-used as regular storms being described as "once in 50 years" events.
Yet, just occasionally, an opportunity pops up which really is "once in a lifetime".
The possibility of shifting incoming freight from Ports of Auckland to Northport is just that, offering an economic lifeline to the struggling Northland economy that just has to be grabbed with both hands to ensure a decent future for our province, our kids and get some life back into Whangārei, which is drifting backwards.
The proposal rides on the back of upgrading the rail line and linking it to the port, so containers can be moved south by train to an inland hub in north/west Auckland, where all the big new retailers like Costco and IKEA are setting up.
The fact that rail has been so neglected in the North is a blight on our political leaders. All countries with progressive economies have been building freight rail flat out for the past decade, while we have let our rail rust.
WINNING THE PORT
• The Advocate says: The North must join together in the fight to win Auckland's port
• Port in a storm: The North of Plenty
• Northland mayors support Auckland port move to Northport
• Wayne Brown: Northland, get your A into G on the port
• David Cormack: Why moving Auckland's port is a win for everyone
It's not possible to think of a more positive economic lift to Northland, especially to Whangārei, than making the most of the port vision that should have been built upon when it first moved to Marsden Point.
That it never got connected to the rail network also points to a lack of leadership in the North, further exacerbated by some dumb selling of port shares to competing ports that have been able to hold Northport back.
Right now our leaders need to get their council match-fit for what should be coming. They need to demand the government implement the recommendation to shift the port north and get our local body staff ready for the sudden lift in demand for new buildings that will surely follow.
New businesses simply won't put up with the risk-averse slow approval processes that characterise our district councils now. This must change!
Export growth is under way with the boom in golden kiwifruit in Kerikeri and the massive avocado plantings north of Kaitaia.
Failure to implement the Northport build will consign these new exporters to having to pay $2000 more per container to export via Tauranga than if they could use Northport.
Whangārei businesses need to look north to Kerikeri and Kaitaia to see what is possible instead of staring south like cargo cultists waiting for the much promised but never funded four-lane highway. Better roads to Auckland will surely follow the development of Northport, which relies firstly on rail.
Northland politicians like Matt King - who appeared to be an apologist for Ports of Auckland rather than champion of the North - need to be consigned to the dustbin of history if they don't get on board now.
Make no mistake - there are plenty of vested interests in Auckland fighting to keep their existing privileges at our expense and they have local body leaders who have no interest in helping Northland.
So public, demand that this opportunity doesn't go begging. There won't be another one in our lifetime.