Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand

 
Port move ignores logistical realities

Port move ignores logistical realities

Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand

 February 2020    RTF News

Unfortunately, the determination of some to move the functions of the Ports of Auckland 150 kilometres north to Northport, gives me a bit of a sinking feeling.

It's that sense you get when you know that something hasn't been thought-through, yet the momentum is such that we go ahead with it anyway.

Moving Ports of Auckland's existing commercial functions (container freight and car imports) to Northland does not make sense from a logistical point of view, and I am nervous that it is being driven by peripheral issues and parochial politics, rather than hard-nosed economic reasoning.

I, like most people concerned with the movement of freight in this country, understand that there are problems with the Ports of Auckland's current location. However, there are also significant issues with a future move north that, perhaps because it is only hypothetical so far, are not being properly considered.

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Unfortunately, the determination of some to move the functions of the Ports of Auckland 150 kilometres north to Northport, gives me a bit of a sinking feeling.
It's that sense you get when you know that something hasn't been thought-through, yet the momentum is such that we go ahead with it anyway.
Moving Ports of Auckland's existing commercial functions (container freight and car imports) to Northland does not make sense from a logistical point of view, and I am nervous that it is being driven by peripheral issues and parochial politics, rather than hard-nosed economic reasoning.
I, like most people concerned with the movement of freight in this country, understand that there are problems with the Ports of Auckland's current location. However, there are also significant issues with a future move north that, perhaps because it is only hypothetical so far, are not being properly considered.
I have not seen any decent analysis on what the move would actually mean for the overall national freight task. The investment in road and rail that will be required to transport the more than 400,000 twenty-foot container equivalents back to Auckland is one thing, but the lasting legacy may very well be the extra domestic transhipping and freight costs that will act as a drag on the economy.
The future of ports in the upper part of the North Island has been considered as part of the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy, which made its recommendations to Cabinet. The problem is that Cabinet so obviously skewed the favour towards Northport right from the start, which meant that any chance of the strategy delivering a truly independent piece of advice was unlikely.
It is fair to say that getting the true cost of the move to Northport has been extremely difficult to ascertain, with an initial report claiming that it would only cost $1.7billion….while a Ports of Auckland-commissioned report suggested a cost nearly four times higher. That analysis, undertaken by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research and strategic advisory firm Castalia, summed it up as "an extremely expensive way to relocate jobs to Northland from Auckland."
The strategy's final report, released just prior to Christmas, suggests a much more realistic $10billion cost – the majority of which comes from the necessary road and rail upgrades. An inland port to Auckland's northwest is also proposed but that is assumed to come entirely from private investment.
The strategy also suggested that the move would provide a $6billion windfall to Auckland Council, based on the value of the waterfront land left over and its commercial potential.
It goes without saying that Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is less-than-enthusiastic about the forced loss of the port as a dividend-paying strategic asset. It will be interesting to follow negotiations between central government and Auckland Council as compensation must surely be on the table.
As a representative of the transport industry it would be easy to take the selfish view that the Northport project would provide a windfall for our industry, as a lot of freight will need to travel down to Auckland on the road. However, that doesn't make the "NZ Inc" waka go faster and, at the end of the day, that must be the overarching consideration here.
The ultimate question must be why would you move the dropoff point for goods destined for Auckland and locations south of that a further 150 kilometres north? Frankly, you are going in the wrong direction. That is not to mention the massive increase in carbon emissions that will result from the move, something that I would have assumed this Government would be very conscious of.
On a number of occasions, I have publicly urged the Government to take a step back, remove the politics and parochialism from the debate and take a good hard look at all the facts before making a decision.
If the aims are simply to boost Northland's economy and remove unsightly blue-collar industry from downtown Auckland, do those reasons really stack up against the broader economic and logistical impacts for Auckland and the rest of NZ?
NZ's strength as a trading nation is in our ability to get goods from the farm gate to port, and then to our overseas markets, as cheaply and efficiently as possible. Likewise, consumers and manufacturers here rely on fast and efficient transport links to maintain the affordability of overseas products entering our market. These factors shape our transport network and any Government that seeks to disrupt them should only do so with extreme caution.
Finally, I just want to give a wee plug for a new TV series based on the adventures of NZ truckers. National Road Carriers has teamed up with a TV production company to put together the show that I hope will show off the skills of our fantastic drivers and the tremendous hard work and diligence that it takes to keep the economy ticking.
The makers of the show are looking for drivers, company managers and owners or members of dispatch teams who are involved in transporting supermarket freight, container freight and medical supplies around the country. They are also keen to hear from those involved in transporting equipment and supplies for concerts and events. If you are interested or know of anyone who would be, please contact NRC at
enquiries@natroad.co.nz


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