9 Apr 2016

Shifting port to Muriwai 'worth considering'

6:00 pm on 9 April 2016

Shifting the Ports of Auckland to Muriwai would take decades and cost billions of dollars but is still an option worth considering, a lobby group for the freight truck sector says.

Surfers and seabirds at the gannet colony, Muriwai

Surfers and seabirds at the gannet colony, Muriwai, 29 August 2015. Photo: Kennedy Warne

The small settlement northwest of Auckland has made it into a shortlist of possible new sites for the country's biggest container port.

A working group set up by mayor Len Brown has also shortlisted the Auckland side of the Firth of Thames, and the Manukau Harbour.

The remaining options to be considered are not shifting the port at all, and either constraining it to its current footprint or letting it expand.

Shifting to Tauranga, Northland and other locations were no longer on the table.

The Ports of Auckland bills itself as handling 818,000 20-foot equivalent container units each year, and that it manages cargo equivalent to 13 percent of the country's total GDP.

Yesterday, when the shortlist was released, it said on Twitter that shifting to Muriwai was a mad idea that would involve murdering gannets.

But Ken Shirley from the Road Transport Forum, which represents commercial freight movers, said the idea was not completely mad.

"I think if it's a greenfields situation it may well be an optimum idea but the expense would be huge... you're talking about major infrastructure in terms of key motorways, (and) heavy rail to go to it.

"Just a huge expense and it's long term, it would take decades for that to develop," he said.

As well as heavy rail, a port at Muriwai would effectively need State Highway 1 heading to it, Mr Shirley said.

"We're talking about many billions of dollars for that option, but equally you've got to think in terms of is the status quo able to serve Auckland in 50 years' time," he said.

Mr Shirley said by their very nature trucks offered great flexibility and only required good and congestion-free infrastructure.

Muriwai Beach

Muriwai Beach Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Truck drivers getting to and from the current port location in downtown Auckland were no strangers to congestion, but that issue was being addressed, he said

"If you're looking at any alternative you really have to look at that whole picture of - would you put a third (rail) freight line into the Ports of Auckland at its current site if in the longer term you were going to move somewhere else - probably not."

The "total freight picture" needed looking at, with analysis not just on the Ports of Auckland in isolation, he said.

"You've then got to look at what's the role of the ports of Tauranga and Whangarei serving the top of the North Island - possibly with a smaller Ports of Auckland."

Mr Shirley said trucks stuck on motorways cost the economy, with costs going into freight charges which consumers ultimately paid for.

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