In a recent series of New Zealand Herald articles on the future of Auckland's waterfront, it was alleged that no Northland leader has yet "raised their head above the parapet" in open support of moving the Ports of Auckland to Northland.
This is me, head, shoulders, body and all, continuing to fly the flag in support of bringing the port up north. I have publicly supported bringing functions of the Ports of Auckland to Northport since 2017.
• Port in a storm, part 4: The North of Plenty
• Leaked report says time for action on moving Auckland's port is now
• Port in a Storm, part 2: Why move the Auckland port?
• Simon Wilson: More mischief and mayhem at the port
At the time of writing this column, we had still not been given the privilege of laying eyes on the detailed report prepared for Government by the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy (UNISCS) working group.
Northland leaders have been told that this report contains specific recommendations, calling for immediate adoption of the strategy to move the Ports of Auckland to Northport, and recommending a clear timeline for the necessary infrastructure support projects.
Putting to one side the fact that our council has yet to see this report, there is no doubt that moving the Ports of Auckland to Northland would require a near complete overhaul of our integrated transport infrastructure.
In early September 2019 it was announced that an investment of $98.4 million from the Provincial Growth Fund would upgrade the rail line between Swanson and Whangārei. This covers some of the necessary funding, but does not include the cost of the all-important rail spur from the main line to Northport.
Nor does it take into account costs to upgrade and maintain the roads, which would be handling a significant volume of heavy traffic.
The environmental impact must also be carefully considered. There are significant environmental benefits of using our rail line for more freight; including the easing of congestion on our roads, improved road safety and – importantly – the reduction of carbon emissions.
We also need to manage the enlargement of our existing port environment, what the flow-on effects could be to our harbour and surrounds, and what impact this might have on us socially and culturally.
Iwi and hapu engagement is imperative, as is close communication with environmental and ecological scientists, strategic planners, local government and the NZ Transport Agency.
I agree with Minister Shane Jones' statement (from a October 3 Radio New Zealand article) that this will be "a major, nation-building, transformational project". There will be effects felt throughout Northland, and while I am sure that most effects will be positive, as with any transformation, there will undoubtedly be disruption and adjustment.
The more we can predict and prepare, the better.
Do I support the Ports of Auckland moving to Northport? Yes. Do I want us to go into this with our eyes wide open? Absolutely.
• Sheryl Mai is mayor of Whangārei.
PORT IN A STORM: THE SERIES
Moving the port is the biggest infrastructure project Auckland has faced. Last week the NZ Herald's Simon Wilson examined the proposal in detail, and looked ahead to ask: what does the future hold for Auckland?
Monday: The Big Idea.
Tuesday: Why move the Auckland port?
Thursday: The North of Plenty : The prospects for Northland
Saturday: Auckland 2050: Our city in 30 years .