What if the Port of Auckland stayed where it is
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) followed by taking a look at relocating the Port entirely out of Auckland, our final look is keeping the Port where it is and upgrading it to handle future demand in shipping traffic.
Port of Auckland – where it is plus some expansion
The Draft Auckland Plan and its associating support documents plus technical manuals have the Port of Auckland staying where it is, with the potential to expand in its current location to meet future growth (see bottom for embedded link of technical document)
This expansion comes in the name of possible 20 hectare expansion into the Waitemata Harbour, this expansion seems to have parts of the media and other commentators running red-hot with all sorts of commentary from just about all angles.
The New Zealand Herald ran three stories alone on the Port of Auckland issue, with Joel Cayford also writing an extensive post on POAL as well late last year.
The three Herald articles were:
Cayford’s Blog post can be found HERE
I highly recommend reading Cayford’s post before progressing as he sums up very well what I am also thinking in keeping POAL where it is and allowing it to expand. The NZ Herald in the “Port will ‘shrink harbour’ piece also has an interesting graphic of what COULD be the final result in POAL did extend 250m into the Waitemata Harbour.
Look having POAL extend that far into the harbour is one thing that is enough to alarm just about any person in Auckland or beyond, but what I am touching on here as Cayford did is the transportation links to and from the Port that will prove to be its (POAL) Achilles Heal.
There are other side effects in Auckland of an expansion of POAL activities – for example dredging, reclamation into the City of Sails playground, and obstruction of view corridors. However, if POAL does not expand then the report has this advice:
“…When a port or its hinterland facilities are more strongly congested than is the case for competing ports, the quality of that port’s service may be lower in that it takes more time to access and egress the port and the reliability of service declines, and this weakens its competitive position….Just a quick digression here into Auckland’s “hinterland”. Specifically rail. The POAL plan suggests “as much as 30%” of container movements could be by rail. That sounds not very much to me. We should get as many of these container movements as we can onto rail – rather than trucked by road. Let’s assume 50% and consider the implications of POAL’s growth plans.
The 5% POAL growth strategy would mean the port would be handling about 3,600,000 container movements per year in 2040. About half of these are ship-ship movements – ie POAL acts as a hubbing port for other ports. The other half are distributed by road and rail. Assuming half of these are moved by rail, that means 900,000 containers are moved by rail. What would that mean for Auckland’s “hinterland”? Well. All of these container movements have to use the North Island Main Trunk Line NIMT – which takes them through the residential areas of Orakei, Panmure and Glen Innes. Trains through these areas travel slow, at about 30 kph. What does it mean for the local environment? Well. 900,000 containers carried by train over a year, each about 10 metres long (allowing for gaps between containers and rail trucks), would require 30 trains a day, each about a kilometre long, to get these 900,000 containers through that bit of Auckland’s hinterland. If trains ran with a 5 minute headway between each train, POAL container trains would run for 3 and a half hours each and every day of the working year (estimated to be 300 days) through Panmure and Glen Innes etc. And if that matter isn’t a concern, then POAL’s strategy of becoming a gateway port (in competition with POT) should be, as the paper goes on to explain:
“…One consequence of the drivers of change in the organization of supply chains is that gateway ports have in many cases become a replaceable element of the chain, with relatively weak bargaining power. A port that provides service of a given quality at the lowest price does not necessarily gain market share, as other factors – that are not under the port’s control – also affect port choice. The focus shifts from port performance to supply chain performance. Among the other factors, hinterland transport costs have become relatively important, as the cost per kilogram per km on the hinterland is 5 to 30 times as high (depending on the hinterland transport mode) as the maritime shipping cost. Routing choices, and to some extent port choices, are strongly dependent on hinterland transport conditions, and reliability of the total route has become increasingly important to those in the supply chain making the routing decisions.So. Spending up large on POAL reclamations will not guarantee that POAL is favoured as a gateway port – especially if road and rail conditions are congested and expensive.
Simply put there are two ways in and out of Port of Auckland to get freight over land to and from where ever it needs to go. The first being (as mentioned above) the North Island Main Trunk Line – or for train commuters The Eastern Line from the Port (opposite The Strand near Britomart) to Westfield Junction, before the NIMT carries on from Westfield Junction south on the Southern Line. The second route being State Highway One (The Southern Motorway) via Grafton Gully and Stanley Street (State Highway 16) from the Port to (usually) the South Eastern Highway or Mt Wellington Highway. Now the reason why I mention Westfield Junction and the South Eastern or Mt Wellington Highways is because, these two links serve the major logistics freight hub and an inter-modal base in Auckland – which are in the suburbs of; Penrose, Mt Wellington and Westfield. However there is another freight logistics hub in Wiri further south which sits right on the Southern Line. This “inland” port is also an inter-modal base for containers to be transferred to and from trucks to/from rail – the same as Metro Port in Penrose.
Lets take a look at a map at the area of logistics hubs, inter-modal bases and transport routes in comparison to the city.
The first map we look at from Port of Auckland to Westfield/Penrose
The second map is from Westfield to Wiri
You can click on the images to enlarge them to 1920×980 or check them out “live” on Google Earth
You can see that POAL is pretty isolated from its support bases in both Wiri and Penrose/Westfield. Trucks and freight trains have to traverse some of the most congested routes in Auckland to move their goods to or from the Port back or from their inland bases before the goods are either further moved by train or truck to their final destinations and their customers. If you a truck – you also have to traverse the steep Grafton Gully and get stuck in the Newmarket Viaduct on the way out. As Cayford blogged, congestion is time – and time is money to businesses, exporters and importers; and heck you see some congestion between Wiri and Port of Auckland both on the roads and railway (passenger train movements). So the question is, if we (Auckland) have congestion now fouling freight movements between POAL and the inland operation points at Penrose/Westfield or Wiri, then I hate to think of the fouling and economic inefficiencies come 2040 when there two million people and a port moving double the volume of goods now.
If you want a congestion trial – take your car onto the Southern Motorway from Manukau and head to Britomart on State Highways One and 16 (Grafton Gully), take a train from Britomart to Papakura and back on the Eastern Line, then your car back to Manukau back tracking the way you came up Grafton Gully and see if you do not get stuck behind a freight train or truck on your circuit. Believe me if you do it can be a very painful experience as your time is eaten away – also you can see what the trucks have to go through as well as rail commuters.
Look simply put, the Port can expand all it wants but it will be still constipated and inefficient due to the hapless transit links and isolation from its inland support bases. And being isolated and constipated will continue to hobble POAL in being a competitive port against Marsden Point and Port of Tauranga which do not have these problems.
Now you can fix the transit problems if you are willing for the Port to expand such as seen in this graphic here. However the transit fixes will cost more than the City Rail Link and Second Harbour crossing combined – so an estimated total of around $7 billion. This is how the $7b would be broken down:
- Third Rail Line complete with Crossovers at each train station and electrification between POAL and Papakura on The Eastern Line: $1.3b minimum as this includes bridge rebuilds and the Meadowbank Tunnel being widened
- Eastern Highway as a full grade separated Motorway rather than the expressway I advocated for: $4b minimum and that is not including political resistance
- The South East Link from State Highway 20 through Penrose to Mt Wellington Highway, State Highway One, The Eastern Highway and East Tamaki/Highbrook (through a modified Eastern Highway): $1.5b minimum
- Upgrade to Wiri Inland Port: $100m minimum (the site would have to be relocated – I have an idea for location along old spur lines in Southern Wiri for it work – just need no muppet to build on it first
In fact here is another map showing the old spur lines from The Southern Line, the sites of possible new inter-modal hubs and the existing Wiri Inland Port.
Ironically these new possible hubs could work well due to the fact that there are already logistics bases there and existing (but mothballed) rail infrastructure to support it. Plus the spurs are off the main line so no fouling of passenger train movements – especially when the Third Rail Line is built properly.
$7 billion potentially spent on transit fixes with a colossal port protruding into the Waitemata Harbour and we run the risk still of high congestion and nuisance from increased freight movements in the most highly populated and valued areas of Auckland. Is the money being well spent or could it be used for something in my honest opinion rather more productive for the city. The Opportunity Cost both economically, environmentally (both physical and social) and pure monetary wise is extremely high if POAL stays, expands and money sunk into extremely expensive transit upgrades. Is such a cost worth it
At the end of the day, Auckland Council is going to have to think long and very hard on what to do with POAL. I have given three possible options with Joel Cayford is giving detailed analysis on what would happen if POAL stays where it is.
I preferably would have POAL relocate to South East Auckland with support coming in from Marsden Point – something I will touch in my final post in the POAL Location Mini Series.
The question is – what is best for Auckland and New Zealand in the long run concerning POAL – could a move be required and we cop the short-term pain for long-term gain.
Time for that enquiry Councillors.