Port 'controversy' needed public input, lobby group says

Would Port of Auckland's proposed port extension have courted controversy if notified and does this matter?   Hamish McNicol talks about the latest in the Port saga on NBR Radio and on demand on MyNBR Radio.

To build your own NBR Radio playlist and enjoy instant on-demand access to any audio, sign up for our FREE smartphone-only subscription to NBR ONLINE.

The “intense public controversy” surrounding proposed extensions to Ports of Auckland's Bledisloe Wharf mean the resource consent applications should have been publicly notified, lobby group Urban Auckland says.

And "it must have been obvious" Ports of Auckland's application to extend the wharf in two places would have been controversial, attracting public submissions on the matter, the High Court at Auckland has heard.

Non-profit public interest society Urban Auckland is this morning applying for a judicial review of Auckland Council's decisions in relation to expansion at the port it owns.  

Urban Auckland's lawyer Matthew Palmer, QC, says the case is about whether resource consent applications should be notified when there is significant public controversy about the proposal and similar proposals in the past.

There has been "intense public controversy" about Bledisloe Wharf since 2013, he says, meaning the same could have been expected for the extensions.

The controversy is important because it could therefore be expected the public would make submissions which would provide "valuable public input," he says.

"Controversy has been what can only be described as 'high'.

"It must have been obvious that this application to extend the wharf in two places would have been controversial."

Mr Palmer, says the decision to not public notify is one "no reasonable decision maker" could have made.

Urban Auckland is saying the extensions will do damage to Waitemata Harbour and block views from Queen's Wharf.

The hearing is continuing before Justice Geoffrey Venning, and is expected to take three days.

Auckland Council's lawyer Alan Galbraith, QC, will make submissions tomorrow before Ports of Auckland, represented by Jim Farmer, QC, is heard on Thursday.

In April, Ports of Auckland dropped one of the 100-metre extensions following public outcry and pressure from Auckland Council.

Under the compromise, Ports of Auckland will continue building the eastern extension (B2) but put on hold construction of the western extension (B3) until after a year-long study into the port's operations.

To build your own NBR Radio playlist and enjoy instant on-demand access to any audio, sign up for our FREE smartphone-only subscription to NBR ONLINE.