Andrew Dickens: Latest ports proposal is rooted in politics

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Tue, 12 Nov 2019, 4:07PM
This should not be a political decision. (Photo / File)

Andrew Dickens: Latest ports proposal is rooted in politics

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Tue, 12 Nov 2019, 4:07PM

A leaked report has found that the Ports of Auckland should be moved to Whangarei.

The report details how the freight operation at Ports of Auckland is no longer economically or environmentally viable. It also says that if Auckland and Northport can't reach a commercial agreement within 12 months, then the Government should introduce new legislation to force the move.

That’s a big call. A really big call.

To recreate a wharf operation 150 kilometres away from where it already exists is going to cost a pretty penny.  It makes dams and tunnels and trains that we’ve built so far look like children’s sandcastles.

To make it work for the next 100 years would require road and rail upgrades in the billions. Wharves and cranes in the billions. Processing and inland ports in the billions.  It would exponentially increase the traffic and congestion between Auckland and Whangarei.

Yet the executive summary tries to suggest it would cost just $10 billion.

Now I understand the capacity constraints the Auckland wharf is under and as the city continues to expand its population that capacity constraint will be exceeded uncomfortably.  But this suggestion seems half-baked.

And considering its implications you have to wonder who decided that this extreme course of action is needed and that if it doesn’t happen then the government has to step into commercial companies and tell them how to run their business.

Well the working group that is making this huge claim is chaired by former Northland Mayor Wayne Brown.  Now Mr Brown is a very skilled technocrat who has produced reports on all sorts of state organisations, and I’m not suggesting that he has cooked this report to suit his region. 

But appearances are important and having a Northland politician advocating that the biggest infrastructural investment in New Zealand should happen in his patch still has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce head Michael Barnett didn’t swallow that this morning on TV either, calling the idea political and not business. And we know politics always ruins and slows our infrastructure which is why our infrastructure is so bad and compromised.

That’s why an Infrastructure Commission has been formed.  It has a chairman in Alan Bollard and announcements shortly will come on how it will operate and what its remit will be.

When it comes to things like moving ports, the thinking needs to be free of any stain of politics whether real or implied. It needs to make sense now, in 10 years’ time, in 50 years’ time and in 100 years’ time. It needs to be made by unbiased experts not local body politicians

This is why I’m not buying this idea at this time.