I have been covering the Port of Auckland saga extensively here at View of Auckland as well as Whale Oil at his site. In several posts I have mentioned that the Port verse Maritime Union fight as spawned off two other key debates. First being the ownership ratio of the Port – public, mix, private; the second being a possible relocation of the Port away from the Waterfront to another location.
Before you go further I recommend brushing up the Port coverage at VOAKL by checking out the Port of Auckland Index first if you have not done so already.
In the POAL debate; efficiency, viability and all other things economic have cropped up. The location of the current Port of Auckland has also come up with some saying it should be moved so that Port itself can be more viable as well as releasing land for extensive waterfront development.
VOAKL has called and will continue calling on the Auckland Council to hold an enquiry into options for the location of the Port to allow the best rate of return and economic viability possible. An enquiry made up of a broad range of representatives from Business, Industry, Engineering and Academia would report on whether: Keep the port where it is and make improvements there, Relocate the Port within Auckland, or Close the Port entirely and allow Marsden Point and Port of Tauranga take POAL’s place. This calling on an enquiry to the Port I consider extremely urgent as in February, Auckland Council will debate and finalise The Draft Auckland Plan into the Auckland Spatial Plan – a legal document Council must follow for the next 30-odd years. No matter which of the three options will be recommended by such an enquiry and adopted by Council, all three options will have serious implications, consequences and ramifications to The Draft Auckland Plan. Serious enough are these consequences that any of those three options could trigger a re-write of The Draft Auckland Plan and Draft Long Term Plan, basically duplicating an exercise that did not have the foresight into such a CRITICAL ISSUE.
Having first looked at relocating the Port within Auckland (South East Auckland – Clevedon), we now take a look at moving the Port outside of Auckland.
It has been touted by some that the Port of Auckland should relocated entirely out of Auckland and to a dual sharing role with Marsden Point (which handles NZ’s Bulk Fuel Imports/Exports) and Port of Tauranga (NZ’s largest port by volume). The map below gives their locations in regards to Auckland.
Tauranga is around 206km and is a 2:30 hour drive from Auckland CBD using State Highway Two (add an extra 15-30mins for using State Highway 29 (over the Kaimai Ranges)). Marsden Point from Southdown-Otahuhu is around the 150-155km mark and the trip would top 2 hours allowing for traffic and roading conditions.
Rail wise; Auckland is connected to Tauranga by the North Island Main Trunk Line from Auckland to Hamilton, then at Frankton Junction the rail traffic splits off and uses the East Coast Main Trunk Line to Tauranga.
Towards Marsden Point, freight trains would use the North Auckland Line which starts from Westfield Junction and heads up towards Otiria near Whangarei. However the Marsden Point Branch Line (proposed) would need to be built to allow the freight trains to continue towards the Marsden Point Port.
I have also noted on the map the Port of Tauranga Metro Port located at Southdown/Westfield Rail Junction and the Kiwi Rail Wiri Inland Port which is on the NIMT next to Manukau City Centre.
Wiri Inland Port serves as a facility between Kiwi Rail and trucking firms to move containers between Wiri and Port of Auckland itself (saving truck movements on a congested State Highway One and Grafton Gully). Metro Port at Southdown is a Port of Tauranga Facility and serves as large inter-modal transfer point for rail/road goods moving between Auckland and Port of Tauranga.
Effectively Auckland has the inter-modal transfer facilities to allow goods to be transferred to/from road/rail. Having the Port of Auckland “closed” and Marsden Point and Port of Tauranga take up POAL’s place should not be a problem – right? Well not really – I will address that soon in this post.
By “relocating” POAL to Marsden Point and Port of Tauranga, you effectively close down POAL at its Waterfront site. If that were the case then I suspect Auckland Council would hold the land and either redevelop it and/or lease it out to commercial interests. By doing that it the waterfront could be so-called “reclaimed” back to the Auckland ratepayers and general public. Relocating the Port outside of Auckland also has impact on infrastructure with traffic flows altering in response to the shift. Projects such as the Eastern Highway, South-East Link from Onehunga to State Highway One , the third rail line from Westfield Junction to the current Port of Auckland location and upgrading Grafton Gully and Stanley Street would all be “cancelled” due to the port relocation.
However other infrastructure projects would arise to deal with the new traffic movements. The North Auckland Line would need to be upgraded, with tunnel clearances increased, track re-laid, more passing loops, inclines and turning curve radius’s improved, signalling upgrades north of Swanson and even a new freight rail line from Southdown to Avondale via Onehunga to bypass Newmarket Station all needing to be done. The Marsden Point Branch Line would also need to be completed as well. Road wise, both State Highways One and Sixteen would need upgrades to allow the increase in freight traffic. These road and rail options are not cheap with the Puhoi-Warkworth “Holiday Highway” (State Highway One upgrade) estimated to run into billions of dollars alone. SO you hope that your Return on Investment from redeveloping “the former” POAL waterfront site would be enough to assist in funding the infrastructure upgrades.
Auckland to Tauranga infrastructure wise is not as bad for moving increased amounts of freight between Auckland and Port of Tauranga – although upgrades would still be needed. At the minimum road wise, State Highways 27, 29, 1 and 2 would all need upgrades to cater for the increased truck volumes that would use the highway. Upgrades such as more passing lanes and able to support the increased wear and tear of the road would be needed. Rail wise, the East Coast Main Trunk Line is already there and in reasonable condition moving goods from Port of Tauranga to Auckland and other destinations. Again minimum upgrades for the rail line would be; signal upgrades, more passing loops, ballast upgrades, grade separation of some level crossing and possibly either improved or new train stabling/servicing facilities to handle the increase the rail volume over the that section of line. The North Island Main Trunk Line would also need upgrading with track duplication needed from Te Rapa to Pukekohe which will not be easy due to swamp land at Mercer. A third rail line between Pukekohe and Westfield Junction complete with more ‘crossovers’ to allow freight trains to run through without impeding passenger metro trains that also run on that part of the line. New inter-modal facilities could also be needed to supply the increased demand in such services arising from the increased long distance freight travel to and from Auckland.
Once the infrastructure and redevelopment questions have been answered and settled, there is one other question that needs to be asked. Unlike keeping the Port where it is or relocating it to South East Auckland, having your (what would be) two major ports at least two hours (by road or rail) away from the city could have some negative consequences. The main consequence is freight cost – the cost of moving the freight such a distance OR not having immediate access to the port that some businesses might require. The cost both monetary and time wise moving freight from Marsden Point or Port of Tauranga could be deemed excessive by some business. These business could either relocate or just close both which have flow on effects into the Auckland economy.
All above are questions that The Enquiry need to ask, research and answer on so that an informed impartial decision can be made on what is the best option for our very sick Port of Auckland.