'I want to progress plans to relocate the Port' – Goff

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff confirms he wants to move the remaining Port of Auckland.

"I want to progress plans to relocate the port from the city-centre waterfront and free up 77ha of land for public use. This has always been my bottom line," he posted to Facebook last night.

"I don't decide whether the port is sold or not – it will be a decision made by all Councillors. councillors can only decide the future of the port company once we have a better idea of where it will be located and options for meeting the costs of relocation."

His post drew immediate social media speculation over where the port could be moved. Whangarei or Tauranga taking on its business were two frequent suggestions. Mr Goff said last night that the Firth of Thames could be the new location. He said the Manukau Harbour (recommended by a report last year) was too shallow and on the wrong side of the city for shipping companies.

The Ports Future Study released last July cited Manukau Harbour as the preferred replacement site for a new Auckland port despite shipping and business interests preferring one on the east coast. It recommended a more comprehensive investigation of two relocation options – the favoured Manukau Harbour and the Firth of Thames.

Mr Goff also raised the question of whether Auckland Council sells the port. While a move would not necessarily involve a sale, a full or partial sale would be one way to fund the relocation (put at $4 billion by last year's Port Future Study).

The Ports of Auckland company was recently valued at $1.1 billion and the land it occupies around $500 million. Its Onehunga port is no longer being used and is to be developed.

Auckland Council has $7.6 billion of debt.

Mr Goff campaigned on moving the port to free up land and eliminate port traffic in the CBD. 

Last night, he stressed that the process would take a long time. The process of finding an economic and environmentally-friendly location, then moving the port, would take 10 to 20 years.

Possible split
Asked if an IPO was a possibility to speed things up, Mr Goff said Ports of Auckland was looking at options including splitting itself into port and land companies. He said Ports of Auckland would not be allowed to simply sell the land to the highest bidder. Environmental factors would also have to be taken into account. 

The council needed a full briefing on the situation before making a decision, he said.

Meanwhile, NBR readers believe the council should sell the port company with 40% in favour and 31% favouring only a partial sale.  Some 29% think it should remain a public asset.

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