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2020 Port Thinking: A letter to Aucklanders

By 14 January 2020August 13th, 2021No Comments

Happy New Year.

Have we imagined enough? Do we understand the consequences of the solution offered for the Port, or do we need to keep thinking?

I don’t believe anyone was surprised when the result of the Upper North Island freight study suggested that the Port should move to Northland. And yes, you can dwell on the politics and the lack of real evidence but it still leaves an issue for the people of Auckland to resolve which relates to the operations of our Port, where they should be and how the people of Auckland and NZ can benefit from making the right solution.

I wasn’t surprised that the solution delivered by the group was of the same construct that’s been thrown at this type of problem for decades. The answer always seems to be more rail, more tunnels, more roads, more dredging and lots more carbon emissions.

So the purpose of this message is to ask you to think, to innovate and create. To take the issue of our Port and come up with an answer that is world class and different.

Imagine if we chose to have a floating Port. A possible location could be in the Firth of Thames and connected to an inland Port or railhead. The connection could be a tunnel beneath the sea and under eastern Auckland direct from the floating Port to the inland destination. Imagine now that the container ships berth at the Port, unload and the containers are lowered into the tunnel onto electric container movers and transported seamlessly from the floating Port to the inland Port for devanning and distribution. No ugly scarring of our waterfront or our landscape, just a constant flow of containers off the ships via a tunnel – out of sight, out of mind.

To some this might sound like a flight of fancy from a Jules Verne novel, but it is conceivable. The world’s longest tunnel is Japan’s Seikan Tunnel which separates the main island of Honshu from the northern island of Hokkaido. The rail tunnel is 53 km – it was opened in 1988.

I am not saying this is the answer, just asking you to think differently. We all agree the Port needs to move. So now it’s your turn. Dream a little and let’s see if we can find an answer that’s not linked to the dinosaur age.

And yes, I appreciate that Northland has an economic development issue.

However, I would suggest that the Government takes some assets they own and control and consider moving those for the good of Auckland and the good of Northland Let me suggest the Navy or the dockyards. This would make some great waterfront land available for the Shore and provide employment and economic activity for the north. Perhaps extend the Whangerei airport to provide both a backup for Auckland and a gateway to Northland for the new tourism product they will develop. These actions could be an immediate change to the Northland economy and happen quicker than moving Auckland’s Port.

The port and its economic benefit belongs to the people of Auckland. How about we find a solution that’s good for us and good for Auckland.

Michael Barnett, Chief Executive, Auckland Business Chamber.
I’d love to hear your view. Email us at [email protected]

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