Business owners say commercial contracts are being put at risk by delayed goods, the result of an inability to get shipments into Ports of Auckland.
Imported goods are bypassing Auckland and are being rerouted to Tauranga. For Auckland business Eurotech Design that means a five-week delay - something that has been happening for months with no end in sight.
The issue highlights the significant problems - current and future - facing Auckland Ports as the city grows. And it has re-surfaced a report which made big waves, and was then shelved, recommending a move to Northport.
Eurotech Design manager Sophia Bristow said the shipping company her business used was refusing to go to Auckland's port, knowing there were congestion problems. It went to Tauranga then transported goods to Auckland via rail.
It not only affected her business but the businesses it supplied, and their customers too, Bristow said. Things were taking at least a month longer and ended up costing more for everyone, she said.
"End consumers are not quite ready to accept the price increase, or the increase at the amount we've experienced are trying to pass on."
For commercial jobs, delays meant risking contract breaches and put a lot of money on the line, Bristow said.
'It's just a matter of visionary leadership'
The future of the port has been well canvassed. The Government has decided it is not fit-for-purpose long-term and it is trying to decide where to put it.
It has received two reports investigating a solution and is still not close to a decision.
The most recent one, by independent consultant Sapere, was delivered to the Government in July 2020.
It found none of the options had net positive economic impacts - options ranging from expanding Northport and/or Tauranga to building completely new ports in Manukau or the Firth of Thames. No advice has been provided to the minister of transport on the Sapere report.
A third study has now been commissioned - a nationwide study into freight. That was expected to take another 12 to 18 months to produce.
Former six-term Waitākere mayor Sir Bob Harvey said someone needed to make a strong decision rather than letting it wither.
"It's just a matter of visionary leadership. That's what I think may be missing in this conversation," Sir Bob said.
Auckland would take a leap forward if the port's 77 hectares - among the most valuable land in the city - were opened up to development and residents, he said.
"I'm sympathetic to the ports, and we've got to be careful and treat them with a bit of kindness. But I think they know - and we know - they will move and they should move. We've got to do that well, with integrity and with Auckland's trust."
Former Far North mayor Wayne Brown - a major advocate for moving the port to Northland - led a study for the Government which ended up recommending that option.
It was clearly the best of the bunch, he said.
It would reduce congestion and emissions by using rail, freeing up the Harbour Bridge; the port land would be returned for Aucklanders' use; and Northport could handle the upgrade with a deep-water inlet, he said.
Kicking the can down the road could not continue, he said.
"A lot of politicians would like to have this idea that it's 30 years away so they don't have to do anything. It isn't. It's eight years away before it's completely useless, this [Auckland] port, and it's already failing."
There were a lot better things we could do than have used cars and empty containers taking up the city's most expensive land, which would take some political courage, he said.
"We've got to stop being incrementalists. We don't have a port strategy in a maritime nation. It's just crazy. It's unjustifiable. And if the port wasn't in Auckland you could never come up with a case to put it there."