Radical plans to expand the Ports of Auckland wharves far out into the Waitemata Harbour will be in large part simply to provide extra parking for containers.
Last year the port’s throughput was 894,383 containers but it is estimated that anywhere between 25 to 40 per cent of them were trans-shipments – meaning around 350,000 big metal boxes never actually left the port by road.
Trans-shipments are containers that are either empty and simply stored at the wharf or contain cargo that is destined for another port on another ship.
“Simply put this means a large part of the port is used as a parking lot for containers,” says Heart of the City CEO Alex Swney. “So essentially we will be trading our waterfront for more containers.”
The ports expansion plans would provide for a 400 per cent increase in container traffic.
“These trans-shipments are not essential to Auckland business and could easily go to ports better suited to large container vessels such as Tauranga or Northport near Whangarei? Do we really want to clog up the Auckland waterfront?” Mr Swney asked.
“We’re not opposed to port expansion or a profitable port. We just think there’s got to be a better way forward than reclaiming the equivalent of 16 Eden Parks from our harbour.”
A Heart of the City poll in November found 85 per cent of Aucklanders surveyed opposed a large-scale reclamation at the ports.
Dr Joel Cayford, a former city councillor and lecturer in urban planning at Auckland University, says the port expansion plans represent a complete failure in the council planning process.
“They have dropped the ball. They’re asleep at the wheel,” Dr Cayford says.
“Trans-shipments can be done from any port. Council needs to consider the future of how the city develops and councillors shouldn’t let financial goals drive their planning decisions. The cost to the public – through loss of views, loss of harbour space and the inevitable increase in port-related transport – is greater than the potential financial gains.”
Prominent Aucklanders are also swinging in behind the campaign to ask the council force the port to rethink their expansion plans including former councillor and prominent yachting identity Penny Whiting and the Westhaven Marina Users’ Group.
Former All Black great Andy Haden has also voiced his opinion saying if the plans went ahead it “would be a disaster for the city”.
“We had a great chance to build an iconic stadium on the waterfront that was missed but if an even bigger space is taken up to be used for a container port then something is very wrong,” Mr Haden says.
Public submissions on the draft Auckland waterfront plan closed on 31 October however the council is due to consider the plan in February with a final vote in late March.