There has been a debate recently about whether the Port of Auckland should be moved.
Leading mayoral candidates were asked their opinions and I am the only candidate who thinks that the next Mayor’s first priority is to deal with the significant transport, housing and security issues already facing Aucklanders.
Debate on the Port has never been far from the headlines. Apparently there have been around 20 different studies on it over the years. The current Mayor has a ‘consensus group’ underway which will report in the middle of the year.
Move to Manukau?
But this report would not have a plan to move the Port, there will be no funding and no agreed location, although the likely preferred spot will probably be the Manukau Harbour much to the concern of residents there.
None of my opponents, who so enthusiastically are signing up to moving the Port have any idea how to do this and how much it will cost.
I think this is irresponsible.
As I travel around our region, Aucklanders regularly tell me that we have higher priorities than the huge cost moving the Port would involve. Also, irrespective of any early decision to move the Port, its growth pressures over the next five to ten years mean steps must be taken to relieve transport congestion around the Port.
At some point, the Port of Auckland may well outgrow its site, however this is decades into the future. Although the Port has said its growth preference has been to extend further into the harbour, I do not support that and neither do many Aucklanders.
The Port has consistently underestimated the impact of technology and productivity.
I will direct them to think more innovatively how they can operate more effectively on a more limited footprint – with additional transport investment.
If we confirm the Port will remain on its current location for at least the next twenty years, we can get on dealing with the transport bottlenecks associated with the Port which we will have to invest in – even if an early decision is made to move.
The top priorities here relate to boosting the efficiency of the rail connection and improving transport passage through Grafton Gully in Parnell at the approach to the southern motorway.
Both of these issues will require Government funding and my influence will come from a real world approach to such issues.
Interestingly, Transport Minister Simon Bridges has agreed with me.
He thinks it is ‘possibly impossible’ to move the Port because of the huge financial costs (up to $5 billion) and the environmental and cultural challenges.
The most important job for the next Mayor is to focus on the backlog of transport, housing and other priorities that many of you have been telling your councillors and local board members about.
After more than five years as an elected member of the Council, I know that these priorities only too well. I want to get on and sort these out first.
Mark Thomas is a candidate in the upcoming Mayoral election in Auckland.