Ngāti Whātua wants to buy Ports of Auckland

Consortium of buyers could include other iwi and NZ Super Fund, Ngāti Whātua says.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei has thrown its hat into the ring to buy the Ports of Auckland with other iwi and the NZ Super Fund.

But Auckland mayor Phil Goff has just clarified the land is not for sale. 

The iwi says it intends to talk to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff about the ownership of the port, which is valued at $1.1 billion.

“Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei has long harboured an ambition to buy back our former land and Waitemata seabed,” Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust spokesman Ngarimu Blair says in a statement.

“We have made this known over many generations to every incoming Mayor and, more recently, signalled this to Phil Goff before and after the election.

“If the opportunity arises we would like to buy it – we are the natural owner and we would do the right thing by the city.”

Mr Blair says Ngāti Whātua “understands the wider public interest in the Waitemata and the desire of many people to keep this precious land in the hands of Aucklanders.

“We are committed and able to put together a consortium that can achieve that goal while also releasing much-needed capital to continue to develop our great city. We look forward to raising this prospect again with the mayor.”

A consortium to buy the port company could include other iwi and the NZ Super Fund, he says.

Ngāti Whātua's annual report for the year to June 2016 says it has assets of $939 million, including property investments worth $890 million. It had revenue of $56.6 million and made a profit before tax and property revaluations of $10.7 million.

The Mayor's view

Auckland Council wholly owns Ports of Auckland through Auckland Council Investments.

Last night, Mr Goff said he wants to move the remaining Ports 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.”

Mr Goff has talked about the sale of the port company but clarified today the port land is not for sale. "When freed up by the relocation of the port will be used to create  an iconic public space for the people of Auckland."

The mayor says his position on the future of the port is exactly what he said during his mayoral election campaign - "I want to progress plan to relocate the port from the CBD and free up 77ha of land for public access to the waterfront.

“A relocation of the port will likely open up some residential and commercial development opportunities, as in the Wynyard Quarter, to fund development of public open space. While this development may be one to two decades out, I am happy to discuss with Ngāti Whātua its role as the mana whenua in potential developments.”

Social media speculation has been immediate 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.

Rick Boven, chairman of the Auckland's Port Future Study, says its report released last year recommended the council should do a comprehensive investigation of two relocation options - the more favoured Manukau Harbour and the Firth of Thames. The study concluded that expected freight growth at the existing Ports of Auckland site would be okay for a few decades but beyond that there will be a need to move.

Yesterday, the mayor said he has had wide-ranging discussions about the port but no “specific proposal” on the port’s ownership had been presented to him.

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