Protecting the Waitemata
It is Auckland’s environment that makes our city so special – our stunning beaches, iconic volcanic cones, multitude of green spaces and especially our sparkling harbours.
At the heart of the city is the Waitemata Harbour, the jewel in our crown.
It is a beautiful harbour. But for generations Aucklanders have been denied access to much of it by the commercial activities of the Ports of Auckland Ltd.
Car storage, containers, a tank farm and the red iron railings around the wharves have stood in the way of Aucklanders enjoying full access to their harbour. This has started to change in recent times with the redevelopment and renovation of the Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter. They have become world-class, vibrant and exciting places to be, attracting locals and visitors alike for recreation, living and working.
Many of us believe that we should look to move Auckland’s port from the CBD altogether and take the path that other cities - such as London, Vancouver, San Francisco, Melbourne, Sydney and Wellington - have followed. Ports of Auckland have resisted this. It wants to reclaim more of the harbour and extend the wharves.
Today we are at a crossroads. Should the port be allowed to claim more of the harbour to provide the extra space and capacity it needs to meet the demands of a growing city or should we move it?
Under my leadership, no more reclamation will be allowed. This decision will give the port company the clarity they need to start making alterative plans. In the short term, the port will need to better utilise the existing site without expanding its footprint. In the longer term, it will need to find another site with more space to meet the growth in freight as the city’s population grows.
Shifting the port brings significant benefits. Rather than using 75 hectares of prime CBD waterfront land for storing cars and containers, we can create new public spaces, residential living and high-value commercial opportunities that will bring economic and social benefits and more jobs for the city and its people.
Because 90 percent of the freight coming and going from the port is moved by road, 2000 heavy trucks clog our inner city streets and motorways every day. Over time, this number will double, causing even greater congestion.
Auckland Council needs to start the detailed process necessary to find and cost an alternative preferred site now.
It is a process that the region more broadly and central government must also participate in. A regional and national ports strategy is needed to determine the best way to configure the ports of Auckland, Whangarei and Tauranga so that we achieve the best outcome - economically, socially and environmentally.
There needs to be a collaborative and consultative process with all stakeholders to ensure that the decision about an alternative port site takes full account of community and environmental concerns.
Council needs full information on the technical feasibility and the cost of shifting to alternative locations and how that can be paid for. The studies done to date do not provide this. This information is essential before final decisions can be made.
The cost of leaving the port where it is would itself require more investment. This offsets the cost of moving the port. Assessment of the economic returns on the alternative uses of the city centre waterfront also need to be part of that calculation.
Moving the port will:
-Revitalise Auckland’s waterfront as it has for other cities that moved their ports out of the city centre.
-Restore public access and enjoyment of the waterfront.
-Generate substantively more economic, environmental and social value from the land by ensuring better public, residential and commercial use.
-Improve facilities for cruise ships given Auckland benefits by a million dollars a day in spending by cruise ship visitors.
-Reduce congestion on roads and motorways leading out of the waterfront.
-By stopping further reclamation, give Ports of Auckland the certainty to plan ahead for a future move while, in the short term, manage the need for increased freight volumes through more efficient use of the existing site.
Auckland needs a strong, clear vision for the future of its waterfront and harbours. It’s time to make the hard decisions needed to deliver on that vision for the benefit of the city and its people.