The Coalition Government is investigating shifting the Devonport dry dock to Whangarei waters as part of its considerations on relocating the Ports of Auckland operations to Northland, which is
Associate Finance and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said the Government had allocated several million dollars to Northport for a commercial analysis on the costs of creating a drydock near Whangarei.
"We are keen to see if there is some scope for relocation of the dry dock,” the Minister said.
The ship repair and maintenance dock at the Devonport Naval Base is owned by the Ministry of Defence, but Minister Jones said the dry dock was a valuable facility "but no longer fit for purpose” as a Defence asset.
A Defence Ministry spokesperson has confirmed Jones' understanding that the dry dock cannot service naval vessel the HMNZS Canterbury or the new KiwiRail ferries. It will not be able to service the new ship the HMNZS Aotearoa when it arrives in New Zealand in April as ll these vessels are too big for the dry dock.
Meanwhile, Minister Jones said the working group for the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy was completing its final report for the Government. The group, headed by former Far North mayor Wayne Brown, is expected to support shifting Ports of Auckland commercial shipping operations to Northport, supported by new investment in KiwiRail infrastructure between Auckland and Whangarei.
Earlier this month, the Minister announced a $95 million Government injection for the Auckland-Whangarei track, which is near closure because of disrepair.
Jones said there was strong interest from light industry owners in relocating to Northland if rail was upgraded and landowners there had been knocking on his door.