The finding that moving Auckland’s freight port to Northland would yield significant benefits opens the door for an Infrastructure Commission assessment of how such a move could proceed, who would pay, and how the process could be best executed, says Infrastructure New Zealand CEO Paul Blair
The report from the Upper North Island Supply Chain Working Group indicates that moving the port’s freight operations north would have substantial benefits for the Northland region as well as freeing up valuable land in the Auckland CBD.
This project could be a rare exemplar of a nation-building strategic investment where meaningful infrastructure investment will lead to knock-on benefits for the local regions and ultimately the country.
Since this process has such enormous implications for infrastructure development and the overall fate of New Zealand’s well-being, an independent review by the newly formed New Zealand Infrastructure Commission – Te Waihanga is essential to make sure we do this right.
The Port of Auckland has had a 150-year life, so we need to be thinking in terms of the next port lasting 150 more years.
The EY report notes significant sensitivity to key assumptions and these should be further tested with stakeholders.
Will Auckland’s port land be used for commercial or recreational uses? Does the business case deliver net jobs growth to Northland and New Zealand or does it simply shift these from Auckland? How commercially viable is the shift of the supply chain to Northland versus use of Tauranga? Is 70% mode shift to rail realistic and does it require road and rail to be delivered together?
Moving the port will be no mean feat, and there should be broad agreement on who will foot the bill for the substantial investments needed in rail, road, inland freight hubs, and harbour redevelopments.
If this $10 billion investment in the north crowds out transport investment south of Auckland, there could be severe impacts for housing supply and development capacity.
The Golden Triangle is over half of New Zealand’s population and more than that in terms of economic growth.
The primary question should be: what strategic investments should we make to optimise New Zealand’s long-term growth and well-being?
Te Waihanga was established for exactly this type of project, so we look forward to it adding its weight to New Zealand’s largest infrastructure project. We only get one shot at moving Auckland’s port, it is important that we get it right.