Wellington, December 10, 2019
On Thursday (December 12, 2019), the public will get access to a Port report in favour of a move north and other less enthusiastic advice.
Official advice on the Port may not chime with a study proposing it be moved, the country’s Infrastructure Minister hints.
At a post-cabinet press conference on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the Port of Auckland’s days as the nation’s main import Port were numbered and an Upper North Island Supply Chain (UNISC) study on the issue would be released on Thursday.
“When it comes to the issue of it being the key import Port we are of the view that it is unsustainable in the long-term,” Ardern said.
From 2029 to 2050
Her Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones said the timing could stretch across three dates: 2029, 2034, or 2050 – and that Auckland’s Port would likely remain in use for cruise ships even if the import functions of the Port moved.
“The writing’s on the wall, and the Prime Minister penned it today, the Port is going.”
But Jones downplayed a reported UNISC suggestion that the Government enter into negotiations with Auckland Council and force the Port to close with legislation within 12 months if the council did not come to the table.
“Let’s get really practical, within 12 months there will be an election and a new government will be sworn in…there’s only so much we can do prior to the election.”
Jones also indicated a range of documents would be released alongside the study – including official advice from the bureaucracy that might not favour the move.
“It doesn’t bother me that some of the analysis from the bureaucracy may be slightly different than Wayne Brown’s report.”
“I accept it’s contested space however the Government spoke today via the Prime Minister, obviously when she talks the Government talks: the Port is going to go.”
The sporadically-leaked Upper North Island Supply Chain study is understood to propose the Government spend close to $10 billion moving Auckland’s Port to Northland.
Critics of the suggested move have alleged it is a “solution looking for a problem“ while Auckland’s Mayor has expressed concerns at the third report’s suggestion the Port could be taken off his council with no compensation.
Ardern said the “billion-dollar” question was when and where a new Port would be created in the Upper North Island.
She also said more investigation of the economic and environmental impacts of Port options would need to be undertaken before any decisions could be made.
“We acknowledge that there is more work to do.”
Jones said one of the main tasks for the future would be getting Mayor Phil Goff on side.
“I’ve been made critically aware that the Port is owned by the Council, and they are the owners, the owners are not the Port executive.”
“We now need to ensure that the owners feel that they are part of the steps that we take forward.”
Dileepa Fonseka is a Political Reporter for Newsroom based in Wellington. He covers Housing, Infrastructure, Immigration, Transport, Local Government and the Provincial Growth Fund. The above has been published under a Special Agreement.