The next round of debate on the fate of the Port of Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour freight operations was launched yesterday with a new Government-commissioned report from economic consultancy Sapere Research Group Ltd.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford & Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones released the report on options for relocating the freight operations but deferred any decision on the issue.
They said in their release: “That decision needs to be informed by policy analysis that is still to be completed. As a result, it will be up to a future government to determine a preferred location.”
Mr Twyford said officials hadn’t yet been able to provide advice on Sapere’s assessment of the benefits, costs, risks & uncertainties associated with the options because they’d been focused on Covid-19 response & recovery work. Consequently, further policy analysis will be needed in 2021.
Sapere considered 5 relocation options: Northport, Manukau, the Firth of Thames, the Port of Tauranga and a shared increase in capacity at both Northport & the Port of Tauranga.
Its key findings:
- The port’s current downtown Auckland location has about 30 years’ capacity and there is a 10-15-year window for making a final decision on relocation
- For all 5 options, engineering & consenting could be difficult
- Manukau Harbour was the most highly ranked option, although consenting could be problematic
- The economic costs would outweigh the economic benefits for all the options, including Manukau.
Northport preferred last time
The Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy Independent Working Group previously identified Northport as the preferred option. Following the release of the working group’s report late last year, the Government got the Ministry of Transport, Treasury & the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment’s Provincial Development Unit to do further work to inform a relocation decision.
Mr Jones said at that time Cabinet noted the Ports of Auckland was not viable as the upper North Island’s key import port over the long term.
Yesterday, Mr Jones said: “This new report provides valuable insights that will help inform future decisions on this complex & significant issue.”
Ports of Auckland says report conclusions “no surprise”
Ports of Auckland Ltd chief executive Tony Gibson welcomed the Sapere report: “As an island nation, New Zealand relies almost entirely on ports to meet our trade needs. Decisions on where ports are located are therefore very important for our future wellbeing as a nation, and this is especially so for the location of the port which serves our largest city.
“We are therefore heartened to find that this report has drawn on the knowledge of a wide range of people with deep expertise in port planning, transport & the supply chain. This is as it should be.
“The conclusions of the report are no surprise to us. They are in line with the conclusions of all but one of the many reports on this topic that have been commissioned over the last decade.
“We are also pleased to see that any future decision will be informed by robust policy analysis.
“Ultimately, a decision of this magnitude is one for our owner, Auckland Council, and future governments. We look forward to supporting this work as & when needed.”
Attribution: Government release, Ministry of Transport, Sapere report, Ports of Auckland.