Northport calls for Ports of Auckland cargo to be thrown its way ahead of relocation

Northport said the study took an overly narrow focus. With special feature audio.

Northport is calling for further discussions on "unbundling" alternatives to the growth issues facing Ports of Auckland although any decisions on more detailed studies into port relocation have been shelved for the incoming Auckland Council.

The council's Auckland Development Committee this week voted to simply refer the findings of the Port Future Study released last week to the new council elected in October.

The study found that a new location was likely to be needed for the port which is facing growth constraints but in the interim there was a need to allow it to build extra berth space despite public opposition to further extensions into the Waitemata Harbour.

It also said that Northport and Port of Tauranga were unable to handle the extra trade from Ports of Auckland and that divvying up parts of its business to other ports would mean a loss of revenue to the council and the scale necessary to stack up a new location.

Northport said the study took an overly narrow focus and contains miscalculations about the potential for it and the Port of Tauranga to be viable solutions to the Auckland port's infrastructure challenges.

It wants more work done prior to the election on possibly "unbundling" the port's total freight task to other ports ahead of investigating billion-dollar relocation sites.

"Auckland will, in all likelihood, always require a port facility," Northport chairman John Goulter said in a statement. "But there are opportunities for the load to be shared across the upper North Island and these have not yet been explored fully."

The report overlooked expanding capacity in the next decade at Northport where log exports are expected to decrease significantly as key Northland forests are harvested and its container handling ability is being developed with consented plans more than doubling berth length.

Goulter said the greater Marsden Point area was particularly suited to port expansion with 180 hectares of undeveloped commercial-zoned land adjacent to the port boundary.

While much of the discussion about the Ports of Auckland's future is about how its neighbours and stakeholders don't want it to grow any further, the people of Northland would welcome more cargo coming to their region, Goulter said.

He said that fact wasn't lost on the port study group chairman Rick Boven, who recently said "no-one wants a port in their backyard, except possibly Northport".

Auckland mayoral candidates Phil Goff and Victoria Crone have said they want the port gone from the waterfront. Goff suggested last month that one way to address Auckland's impending capacity constraints on bulk cargo in the short term would be to move the imported used cars sitting on the wharves to Northport.

Northport commissioned an investigation two years ago that found shipping cars into Northland first, and then on to Auckland, would be cost neutral despite traffic congestion on the city's roads although industry publication Auto Talk this week quoted John Davies, the head of major vehicle logistics provider Autohub, saying most of the claimed benefits from such a shift didn't exist. He said cars on average only spend 1.5 days in the port, one of the fastest turnarounds in the country, but relocating the point of entry to Northport would mean the trucks having to deliver into Auckland's congested roads.

Port media spokesman Peter Heath said the port had also launched investigations into what other cargo may also be commercially and economically viable to shift from Auckland further north.

Earlier this week Port of Tauranga chairman David Pilkington said its shareholders would take some convincing that building a new "super-port" at the Firth of Thames or Manukau Harbour to serve the upper North Island would be a good move.

The port future study said a super-port was another larger scale consideration because Port of Tauranga's growth appears to be constrained in the long-term and that the wider transport, land use and upper North Island port strategy implications should be examined when deciding which of the Auckland port locations to develop.

But Pilkington said the report doesn't take into consideration that the Port of Tauranga's existing container site at Sulphur Point still has extra capacity and once that is constrained could look to extend operations to its Mt Manganui site. He also questioned the numbers used to assess predicted growth in container volumes.

(BusinessDesk)

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