The chairman of the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy (UNISCS) working group, Wayne Brown, has hit back at critics of his group’s recommendations to relocate the Ports of Auckland cargo operations to Whangarei’s deepwater port of Northport.
The working group's recommendation to close Auckland waterfront to all but cruise ships will free up $6 billion of land and relieve the CBD of congestion. It has also been reported that the Auckland Council-owned ports are not viable economically and environmentally.
Moving Ports of Auckland operations to Northport was a key New Zealand First campaign promise, and the UNISCS study was part of the Party’s Coalition Agreement requirements with the Labour Party.
Mr Brown said that it made economic sense to free up prime land in the central district of Auckland: "How can you justify a miserable $8.5 million dividend for using $6 billion worth of land? And inflicting all that truck-derived congestion on a city already jammed”.
That dividend is the sum remitted by the port company that Auckland ratepayers will receive from the Council next year.
"Another thing these idiots say is that it'll put up the cost of goods in Auckland. Already a third of the stuff that comes into Auckland comes via Tauranga and nothing in a shop says it costs more because it comes from Tauranga,” Mr Brown added.
The working group chairman also lashed out at those who said the recommendations had been pre-determined, to appease NZ First.
"Did we predetermine there was a deepwater port up north which already brings in the nation's fuel? Did we predetermine Ports of Auckland would make such miserable returns on such a lot of valuable land?
"Did we predetermine that Ports of Auckland wanted to pick up two million cubic metres of rock out of the Rangitoto Channel to get deepwater berths which you can get without any dredging at Northhland?”
"We didn't predetermine all that - those are the facts,” he stated.
Mr Brown says a lot of critics miss the fact that New Zealand's future export growth will come from Northland, and the northwest of Auckland is where the current development action is. The working group proposes a new rail-served freight hub there so freight can enter the city from two points.
"Why are well-informed companies like Costco and Ikea going to northwest Auckland? If you have an inland hub there all of a sudden North Shore is serviced around the upper harbour highway and you can put off building a second crossing (bridge) for another 20 years. There are so many advantages to this,” he asked.
"Export growth won't come from the Waikato. The dairy industry there is going backwards and dairying is coming north. Bay of Plenty kiwifruit is moving to Kerikeri and the avocado industry's moved north of Kaitaia.”
"Those exports are being put on a truck to Auckland and train to Tauranga. That's not good for New Zealand. It's really stupid,” Mr Brown added.