23 Mar 2015

Brown to consider port options

9:14 am on 23 March 2015

Auckland mayor Len Brown is setting up a working group to consider options for the city's port as protest mounts over the extension of a wharf into Waitemata Harbour.

Protesters at Auckland's Queens Wharf yesterday.

Protesters at Auckland's Queens Wharf yesterday. Photo: Facebook / Jacinda Ardern

About 800 people turned out yesterday calling for the extension of Auckland's Bledisloe Wharf by about 100 metres to be stopped.

Ports of Auckland wanted work on the extension to begin in April.

That was despite a promise by Mr Brown in 2013 for a study on the expansions social, economic, and environmental affects before that happens.

But today he said the council was already looking at tightening rules so people get a say in any future consents for the port - and he was also starting a working group.

"That will work over the next 12 months to review the port its costs and its benefits both economic, social and environmental.

"This is a stage two report that I made a commitment to, and we're moving forward on and we will involved a number of those key voices who were present at the protest yesterday."

Protesters on Queen's Wharf.

Protesters on Queen's Wharf. Photo: RNZ / Murielle Baker

He said it was critical to find a balance between the port's economic importance and what people wanted the harbour to be.

Labour's Auckland spokesperson Phil Goff said the country did need an efficient port system, but not at all costs.

"We are totally unconvinced the the Ports of Auckland is sufficiently using the space they already have, we don't want to see the extension go out into the harbour for the sake of storing cars."

Mr Goff also said he was considering standing for Auckland Mayor in the next local body election but had not yet made up his mind.

Yachting identities join protest

Yachting identities, MPs from both Labour and National, and Auckland councillors made a show of force against the plans by rallying crowds on Queens Wharf yesterday.

Protest organiser Michael Goldwater told the crowds yesterday that Mr Brown had declined to speak at the rally.

"The presence of a working port on Auckland's waterfront will always excite passions among those concerned about the region's economy, its marine environment and the city's urban form, and I welcome the fact that Aucklanders are making their voices heard," Mr Brown said in a statement.

Last week Sir Graham Henry, Neil Finn, and Sir Michael Fay were among 107 well-known Aucklanders to sign an open letter protesting the expansion.

Yatching identity Chris Dickson added his voice to the dissension, saying he struggled to sail around the Wharf because it was so dangerous.

From left to right, sailor Chris Dickson, National MP Nikki Kaye, America’s Cup broadcaster Peter Montgomery (speaking) and protest organisers Millie and Michael Goldwater.

From left to right, sailor Chris Dickson, National MP Nikki Kaye, America’s Cup broadcaster Peter Montgomery (speaking) and protest organisers Millie and Michael Goldwater. Photo: RNZ / Murielle Baker

He said the Waitemata Harbour used to be 2000m wide, but was now less than 1000m.

"The same amount of water goes in and out as it always has, but it's squeezed through half the space. That means the current has doubled. It's a rip. There are whirlpools, there are overfalls. It's dangerous.

"It's an asset that we shouldn't be losing."

Yachting commentator Peter Montgomery said he was "appalled by the haste and cynicism of Ports of Auckland."

"If Ports of Auckland and Auckland City [sic] were confident the Bledisloe Wharf extensions were right and proper, then why do it secretly?

"The Council should not hide behind legal niceties. You own it, you appoint the Board. Councillor Len, fix it!"

Both central Auckland MPs for National and Labour, Nikki Kaye and Jacinda Ardern, also gave speeches in opposition to the extension, as-well-as Auckland councillor Chris Darby (fellow councillor Cathy Casey was also present).

The group says this mocked-up image gives an idea of what the harbour would look like after the extension.

The group says this mocked-up image gives an idea of what the harbour would look like after the extension. Photo: Facebook / Stop Stealing Our Habour

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