Barry Soper: Auckland Port relocation decision could be a coalition breaker

Author
Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Tue, 10 Dec 2019, 10:22AM
Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

Barry Soper: Auckland Port relocation decision could be a coalition breaker

Author
Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Tue, 10 Dec 2019, 10:22AM

COMMENT:

The New Zealand First gun is locked and loaded with the target fixed: Northport near Whangarei.

However the year looks set to end with Labour not delivering in it's self-declared Year of Delivery when it comes to where Auckland's car and container port will be relocated to.

The only thing Cabinet unanimously agreed to was that Auckland wasn't viable in the long term to remain a port.

Now this has the potential to be a coalition breaker. Labour wants more time to consider the options and it would seem a decision on location won't come until around May next year.

If there's not agreement by then, as one insider put it, the coalition partners could end up returning to their respective corners!

The Prince of the provinces Shane Jones will on Thursday be releasing an upper North Island strategy which will relay the support for moving the port but won't say to where.

Shane Jones will be releasing an upper North Island strategy on Thursday. Photo / Focus
Shane Jones will be releasing an upper North Island strategy on Thursday. Photo / Focus

For New Zealand First it's of course a no brainer, it's their preferred constituency with both Jones and Winston Peters driving their political stakes firmly into the ground.

For the people of Auckland and for the country as a whole it's a no brainer. The waterfront in our biggest city is an eyesore and the land the port operates on is thought to be worth around $600 million, housing the Ports of Auckland which is expected to deliver a miserable eight million dollars in profit this year. It's the slowest growing port in the country by a country mile.

Many of the people who work at the port find living in Auckland beyond their means, a shift north would considerably change their circumstances, they may even be able to afford to buy a house. And having the country's second biggest port at the entrance to Whangarei Harbour would provide a much needed boost to the economy there.

The Government's already made a commitment to spend around $800 million on the North Auckland rail line feeding the port.

Why Labour then is refusing to stand and deliver is difficult to fathom. They say all the reports done on the port's future are contradictory and they say that with such a massive decision they have to get it right.

Their former leader Helen Clark's wants it relocated north as does John Key.

Clark says it'd provide regional development and employment befits for Northland, while allowing Auckland to develop into a world-class city.

Labour could well find delaying the decision too close to an election could backfire, and could indeed trigger an early one.