19 Feb 2015

Auckland port move provokes council revolt

9:40 am on 19 February 2015

There's a political revolt within Auckland Council after the port company it owns made a second surprise announcement about the city's wharves.

The two sides of the Bledisloe Terminal (foreground) will be built 98 metres further into the harbour, with the port later hoping to reclaim the space between them.

Last week the port announced work on extension to Bledisloe Terminal (foreground) would begin in April. Photo: SUPPLIED / Ports of Auckland

Ports of Auckland says it will next week begin demolishing Marsden Wharf because of the structure's poor condition.

Relationships between the councillors and the port are already strained over possible future reclamation, and last week's surprise that an extension to Bledisloe Wharf would begin in April.

Councillor Chris Darby is leading a move by seven councillors and two members of the Independent Maori Statutory Board to seek a tighter planning regime on the waterfront.

The nine have formally asked to reconvene last week's Auckland Development Committee and rescind a stance understood to support relaxing the planning process needed for future reclamation.

Ports of Auckland says Marsden Wharf is in poor condition, and it has had consent for demolition since 2012.

The company says it is an operational matter, and not one about which it needs to inform its owner.

That stance is technically correct. The company has its own board which answers to the council's investment agency, which in turn reports to the board.

However it has twice in a week learned the political reality of not informing the politicians who govern the port's owner.

Mayor Len Brown said he was disappointed at the poor communication and would be seeking a meeting with Ports of Auckland.

"Relationships between myself and our council and the port are critical," said Mr Brown. "They need to be trusting, collaborative and constant".

The surprise about Marsden Wharf is the more galling for the council, coming just days after a meeting last Friday, between port chief executive Tony Gibson and deputy mayor Penny Hulse about restoring relationships.

Ms Hulse chairs the committee which is overseeing a review of the council's agencies, one of which, Auckland Council Investments Limited, manages the relationship with Ports of Auckland.

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