Huge wins are rare. As a Government you don't often find yourself with an easy opportunity to do something truly transformative.
There aren't many things you can do that have majority support of the public, make complete sense economically, create jobs in the process and improve the liveability of your country's biggest city by reducing congestion and opening up more green spaces. Even rarer would be one that also suits each member of your ruling coalition.
Exactly that opportunity has been served up to the Government with the report into the viability of moving the Port of Auckland up the road – or railway – to Northland.
The numbers make a compelling case.
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The country's economy has been crying out for a big infrastructure project, they don't come much bigger than this.
A report commissioned by the Upper North Island Supply Chain Working Group and undertaken by EY paints a very pretty picture for the move.
The build is forecast to create 2000 new permanent jobs in Northland, as well as shorter-term jobs. Moving everything from the Port of Auckland up to Northport except the cruise ships has a benefit-cost ratio of 2:1, so for every dollar invested, it can be expected that we'll get double back, and Auckland Council would be better off an estimated $48 million every year, even taking into consideration the loss of the dividend the port currently pays.
The idea is so compelling that as soon as the final report was sent to the Government, Ports of Auckland Ltd dispatched its CEO and government relations guys down to Wellington last week where they spent a long time trying to convince the Government not to do what is clearly the right thing.
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The Prime Minister has already started making the right noises.
She said it was a matter of when, not if, the port moves which is fairly tautological.
Every serious political leader who has considered the port thinks it should leave Auckland - Key did, McCully was a big supporter, and Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye also supported it. Now the Prime Minister is on board, while Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has also spoken out in favour of getting it out of Auckland.
Not surprisingly non-serious political leader Simon Bridges has already put himself in a dumb position.
He "questioned" the ability to actually deliver Northport, which basically sounds like a concession that he won't be Prime Minister at any point to deliver it. He asked whether if it was something Aucklanders truly wanted, which if he'd bothered to read the report would have seen that over half of Aucklanders think it should go, while just over a quarter want it to stay.
Also, a majority think this would be a good thing for Auckland, and 55 per cent want it to happen as soon as possible or within the next 10 years.
Bridges also said that the potential move was being driven by politics. And it's true that New Zealand First is very keen to make this happen, given the benefits it would provide Northland and consequently itself, but EY is an independent organisation that did an independent report which, based on his comments, I don't think Bridges has read.
And the political machinations of the move are beautiful. Labour gets to do something truly transformative, for both Auckland and Northland.
New Zealand First gets to swing its Winston around about helping Northland with jobs and a massive infrastructure project, and the Green Party will be pleased by the fact that it would be rail that would be moving the cargo around the country, necessitating fewer trucks on the road.
The other opportunity for the Green Party is to extract every ounce of policy gain from New Zealand First that it can. NZ First is desperate for this to become a reality, but doesn't yet have the numbers to get it through. The Green Party is only a confidence and supply partner for the Government so doesn't have to support this even if Cabinet gives it the go-ahead. It should be demanding of New Zealand First a huge amount of policy gains in order to support the port relocation. After all, New Zealand First has been a handbrake on several of the Green Party's more progressive policies.
Northland people are also hugely keen for this to happen. In fact a number of port workers actually live further north given that Auckland house prices are often beyond those who work on the port, moving the port to Northland would make it easier for them to get to work and also allow them to spend more time with their families.
The province would have every right to be wary of political promises though, when National was in Government and the Northland byelection occurred, Bridges as transport minister promised the region several new bridges, most were never delivered.
I live in Wellington, I have no skin in this game, but it seems like such a no-brainer that I can't understand why you wouldn't do it. Besides, it would give Auckland new waterfront property to build fancy apartments on, and I know how much you Aucklanders like to talk property.