Thames or Manukau, Auckland port move will cost billions
The location for Auckland's new port has been narrowed down, but would still cost billions and probably won't stop a controversial expansion.
After "vigorous debate", Auckland Council's Port Future Study Group is favouring shifting the Auckland Harbour port to Manukau Harbour, group chairman Rick Boven has confirmed.
It's forecast the move could cost between $4 billion and $5.5 billion, but could be higher depending on how much connecting infrastructure needs to be built, a report by consulting firm Ernst & Young states.
Selling Ports of Auckland's existing Waitemata facility would only net perhaps $1 to $2 billion, preliminary estimates show.
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In the meantime, Ports of Auckland wants to add another 25 metres to Bledisloe Wharf, giving capacity to berth much larger cargo ships until another port gets built.
That is a move the working group by consensus supports, Boven said.
The existing port is "probably ok for a few decades but beyond that we need to move", he said.
Working group member organisation, Employer and Manufacturers Association said it is "pleased certainty and direction" has come to "critical Auckland freight links for Auckland and New Zealand businesses".
Association chief executive Kim Campbell said the group supports "minor" port berth extensions to cope with interim demand before work on a new port starts.
But grass roots group Stop Stealing Our Harbour, which took court action blocking the port's 2015 proposal, has called again for a moratorium on expanding wharfs, including controversial Bledisloe Wharf.
"Any attempt by the port to expand further into the harbour will be vigorously opposed by Aucklanders and there must be no further expansion prior to relocation," spokesman Michael Goldwater said.
In 2015, public fury erupted when Ports of Auckland unveiled plans to extend Bledisloe Wharf up to 100m into the harbour.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown said Auckland Council couldn't block Ports of Auckland, which is council-owned, from making good on its plans.
That year the council unveiled the Ports of Auckland Study Group to consider options, including moving the port elsewhere.
People want their waterfront returned, making it fully accessible to Aucklanders, Goldwater said.
"We should start investigating the best sites for a new port now. It will never be cheaper or easier to move the port than it is today."
However, the "time horizon" for making a new port operational is "not less than 50 years", Boven said.
The Firth of Thames is another port location the working group recommends needs further consideration.
Auckland mayoral candidate Phil Goff said Aucklanders could start getting back "as you go access" to the waterfront land, starting by shifting imported car storage off Captain Cook Wharf to Whangarei's NorthPort.
"I'd like to see Aucklanders get access to the waterfront back and I'd like to see that waterfront transformed into a great public space area, great residential housing and high value-added commercial activities."
Boven poured cold water on the idea of dispersing Ports of Auckland's operations to various ports and said any future port needed keeping together to ensure commercially viable "critical mass".
The working group's report concedes shedding services from Ports of Auckland could weaken the case for an entirely new port.
He said consultants Ernst & Young, who prepared the 28 page Port Future Study recommendation report, won't release the full cost benefit analysis backing recommendations, something another mayoral candidate wants.
Aucklanders deserve the full facts to make an informed decision, businesswoman Victoria Crone said.
"This is a unique opportunity for Auckland but let's not underestimate the incredible complexity [of the task]."
Goff echoes Crone's stance.
He wants decision-makers to "measure twice and cut once" before making an eventual port move decision.
"Nobody knows which port site make the most economic and environmental sense until all the work is done ... the next step is to explain in detail the pros and cons."
Updated peer review reports analysing the recommendations will be released soon, Boven said.