28 Apr 2015

Port expansion battle heats up

1:32 pm on 28 April 2015

Auckland councillors meet behind closed doors today in an increasingly tense stand-off with the council-owned port company over wharf extensions.

Ports of Auckland also faces a new challenge in the High Court this morning, to immediately halt the 92- and 98-metre extensions of Bledisloe Wharf.

Ports of Auckland

Ports of Auckland Photo: RNZ

The meeting was called by mayor Len Brown within hours of comments made on Radio New Zealand on Friday by port company chairman Graeme Hawkins.

Mr Hawkins said the board's intention was to continue the project, even though a formal response to a request by the council for it to halt was still a week away.

Ports of Auckland chair Graeme Hawkins.

Ports of Auckland chair Graeme Hawkins. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

He also underlined that the directors had seven or eight legal opinions showing that their obligations were to do what was best for the company, and not what was best for its owner.

Auckland Council had responded to public protests over the extensions to Bledisloe Wharf by asking the port to halt until a year-long study was completed into the port's future operation.

Councillors had been taken by surprise in February with the news that the port had obtained resource consents for the two extensions, and that work was imminent.

Ports of Auckland says it is already struggling to accommodate increasingly larger cargo and cruise liners, but has yet to present a detailed business to the council investment agency ACIL, which manages the ownership.

The council is trying to manage a delicate legal process in which it could remove port directors, if the stand-off cannot be resolved, either by work stopping, or the port convincing it of the commercial need for it to continue.

At the same time, councillors are facing public pressure to assert themselves.

A new legal challenge to Ports of Auckland will be launched today in the High Court.

Carol Banks, who lives on the harbour's edge at Stanley Bay, is seeking an interim injunction to halt the project immediately, on safety and environmental grounds.

It is the second legal action the port company faces. The lobby group Urban Auckland will argue before the High Court in June that the resource consents for the $22 million project are invalid.

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.

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. Photo: SUPPLIED / Ports of Auckland

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