Winston Peters’ plans to move Ports of Auckland not welcomed

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Winston Peters’ plan to shift container operations from Auckland to Northland if he’s in a position of influence after the election have not been welcomed by the transport industry.

Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley says forcing containers and cars from the Ports of Auckland to Northport is economic vandalism at its very worst.

“It is, quite frankly, outrageous pork barrel politics that would seriously damage New Zealand’s economy. The majority of the goods that come into the Ports of Auckland are consumed in Auckland or markets south of Auckland, making the extra cost of transporting them down from Northport completely nonsensical.

“We have heard for a while now how enthusiastically interventionist New Zealand First is on the economy, but legislating to force goods from one port to another is next level; it is pure Stalinism.”

Shirley says the huge investment that would be needed to the infrastructure of Northport and the transport links from there to Auckland are "complete folly”.

"We might as well ask taxpayers to stand around burning $100 bills.”

National Road Carriers chief executive officer David Aitken agrees, saying even after a massive upgrade of the rail from Auckland to Marsden Point it could not handle the volume of freight now coming through Ports of Auckland.

“The tunnels on the line will not accommodate two-tier car transporter rolling stock, so this would result in a car transport truck and trailer unit on the highway every two and a half minutes at the current levels of vehicles being imported.”

Aitken said KiwiRail had indicated the cost of upgrading the rail would be in the billions, and that was without the added cost of upgrading Northport.

“Maybe the Ports of Auckland may move one day, but I don’t think you would solve anything by moving away from where the bulk of your customers are. It would make more sense to move it south rather than north, because you would still have to move everything through Auckland to get to the rest of the country and all those extra costs would be passed on to the customer.”

Aitken said there were a lot of things that needed to be taken into consideration, such as SH 1 needing to be upgraded to four lanes to cope with all the extra traffic that even the upgraded rail could not cope with.

“He’s looking at an old style of doing things that won’t solve anything and it will actually increase emissions. We need to be looking at new ways of doing things.”

Shirley says he had seen and heard many bad policies in election campaigns over the years, but this one took the cake.

"If Labour or National entertain this kind of rubbish during post-election negotiations then they deserve the full wrath of the electorate that will surely follow,” he says.