25 Mar 2015

Peters moots Marsden Point port expansion

7:53 am on 25 March 2015

With three days left until the Northland by-election, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has been campaigning on infrastructure and job creation.

Yesterday Mr Peters was in the south of the sprawling electorate which stretches from Cape Reinga to Wellsford 80 kms north of Auckland.

Winston Peters in Kaiwaka.

Winston Peters in Kaiwaka. Photo: AFP

He scoffed at accusation's from National that if he won the seat he would derail international trade deals like the Korean Free Trade Agreement and proposed changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA).

He said aquaculture had untapped potential in the north but was being stymied by the RMA.

Mr Peters said he had known people over the years in Northland who had tried to set up marine farms but who had been beaten back by the high costs of getting resource consents.

"Before you can get an aquaculture scheme off the ground, it'll cost you a million dollars in the process. That is just disastrous. It should be expedited, it should be safe and it should be a reasonable price, " he said.

Mr Peters also said although he did not think much of the Korean free trade agreement, he would not vote against it, and the government knew that.

The New Zealand First leader is pushing for the expansion of Northland's deepwater port at Marsden Point which he said could take pressure off Auckland.

Ports of Auckland want to expand Bledisloe Wharf amid much public outcry.

Mr Peters said Port Marsden could easily handle additional cargo, and send it by rail to Auckland, if a rail link were built to the port, and the Auckland line upgraded to take containers.

He said unlike Auckland, Marsden Point had no shortage of flat land for storage of cars and containers, and was the closest port to New Zealand's overseas markets.

He said the main obstacle to such development was that Port Marsden was now half-owned by its competitors: the ports of Auckland and Tauranga.

"These ports should not be competing with each other; they should be ensuring that the shippers have to deal with them on a one-contract basis. That is fundamental, sound economics," he said.

Mr Peters said it would take a law change to make that happen but the change was needed now and NZ First would pursue it.

The small towns in the south of the electorate are governed by Auckland council, and stand to gain most from the government's plan to extend the Auckland motorway from Puhoi to Wellsford.

Many believe that will lead to growth in their communities.

But Sandra Shaw, who owns Wellsford Sport and Leisure, said if the new highway bypassed Wellsford, which was on the cards, it could knock her business for six.

She said she, and many other retailers who line State Highway 1, the town's main street, depend on passing and tourist traffic for their livelihood.

Ms Shaw said roads throughout the north are in bad repair, and many of the unsealed gravel roads are dangerous, but despite years of trying, Northland people had been unable to get governments to address the problem and put money into regional roads.

She said whoever won Northland's by-election, Mr Peters had done the region a service by standing because he had been able to expose those problems, raise the profile of the north and remind the rest of New Zealand about a region that had been forgotten.

Northland by-election statistics:

The by-election has generated a surge in new voters. Since it was announced in February, more than 500 people have enrolled to vote.

The Electoral Commission said 146 of those identified as Maori, and could have joined the Maori roll but chose instead to be on the general roll and vote in the Northland electorate.

About 13,500 voters who live within the boundaries of the Northland electorate, are on the Maori roll and vote in Te Tai Tokerau, the Maori electorate.

Northland has 45,000 enrolled voters, and voter turnout at the last general election was higher than average, at 80 percent.

The Electoral Commission said there were still about 4000 people in the electorate who were eligible to vote, but not enrolled, and they had until Friday to do so.

Election day is Saturday - but people can enrol and vote at any of the eleven voting places around the electorate, up until Friday.

Eleven candidates are contesting the Northland seat:

  • Adrian Paul Bonner, Independent
  • Joe Carr , Focus New Zealand
  • Robin Grieve, ACT New Zealand
  • Maki Herbert, Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party
  • Adam Holland, Independent
  • Mark Osborne, National Party
  • Rob Painting, Climate Party
  • Winston Peters, New Zealand First Party
  • Reuben Porter, MANA Movement
  • Willow-Jean Prime, Labour Party
  • Bruce Rogan, Independent

Lois Williams will report on National Party candidate Mark Osborne's campaign tomorrow.