Editorial: Woohoo to the port

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 28/06/2014

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OPINION: If we're honest, most of us probably undervalue the worth of the port to the district.

We see ships come and go, we hear some nights the loading of containers, and we might know someone who works there.

For a number of years we took a greater interest when the-then wholly-owned council entity was losing money and we feared it might increase our rates, but mostly our interest was, well, blase.

And then dairying took off, and there were containers galore. And then, five years ago, they started to disappear again as Fonterra chose Lyttelton as its main port.

But now that trade is coming back, and more besides. And our interest in the port grows.

What's actually happened? Well, in 2011 Fonterra (represented by Clandeboye here) and Silver Ferns Farms (Pareora Freezing Works) set up a freight and logistics management company called Kotahi.

Big company, huge exports.

In 2013 the Port of Tauranga enters a partnership with PrimePort Timaru. Tauranga buys the container shipping operation, PrimePort keeps the breakbulk (other than container cargo) and retains ownership of the buildings.

This week Tauranga signs a 10-year deal with Kotahi in what is described as a game-changer in New Zealand's supply chain.

In the middle of it all, little old Timaru. Woo hoo.

So, from wondering what to do with two rather large cranes, the biggest problem now seems to be how to find enough crane drivers to operate them.

Great news then, and while the big boys lead the way, there will plenty of downstream winners.

Suddenly the world via water is a much smaller place. We fit in a chain of supply that's far better linked to other countries.

That's beneficial not just to primary producers and manufacturers in South Canterbury, but a fair chunk of the South Island. And that creates jobs in transport, warehousing, administration and more besides.

And that attracts people, which the town can handle and needs. Woo hoo.

It also raises some questions. How will the increased product from Clandeboye get to the port? A railhead link to Temuka? More trucks, and hence a need to revisit an overbridge at the end of North Street? Both?

They though are side issues.

What isn't a side issue is what the port means to this district. It's time to stop undervaluing it.

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- The Timaru Herald

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