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Decision on where to move parts of the Ports of Auckland kicked down the road, as a new study suggests it should be moved to the Manukau Harbour, not Northport

Decision on where to move parts of the Ports of Auckland kicked down the road, as a new study suggests it should be moved to the Manukau Harbour, not Northport
Image from the Ports of Auckland

The controversial, multi-billion-dollar decision on where to move the Ports of Auckland’s freight operation will need to be made by the next government.

A new government-commissioned report has concluded relocating some of the port’s operations to the Manukau Harbour is the best way forward.

The report, completed by the economic consultancy firm Sapere, found the port’s downtown Auckland location has about 30 years’ capacity and there is a 10 to 15-year window for making a decision on relocation.

While the Manukau Harbour was Sapere's pick, it said consenting would be problematic and the economic costs would outweigh the economic benefits.

This conclusion flies in the face of a study completed by a working group chaired by a former Far North mayor, Wayne Brown, which concluded the port’s freight operations should move to Northport.

Following the release of this report in December 2019, Cabinet agreed it was unsustainable for the Ports of Auckland to be the country’s key import port. However, it wasn’t convinced by the working group’s findings, so got the Ministry of Transport to further investigate and report back by May 2020.

Then Covid-19 came along, and tied up the Ministry’s resources, so it commissioned Sapere to build on the working group’s report.

Sapere completed its report in June.

Now, officials are saying they need “at least” another six months to compare the two reports, which have “significant differences,” before making further recommendations.

The issue is highly political. The working group reported to Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones, whose party, NZ First, is a staunch advocate of moving the port to Northport. With NZ First polling below 5%, Jones winning the Northland seat could be the party’s only way back into Parliament after the September 19 election.

Meanwhile Auckland Council, which owns the Ports of Auckland, is critical of the working group’s report.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff in December said he only had “one brief meeting of an hour and 20 minutes” with the working group, and didn’t get a copy of the report until after it was leaked to media.

A Cabinet paper, signed off by Jones, Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Finance Minister Grant Robertson, summarised the Sapere report as follows:

Sapere’s results are based on a 60-year timeframe (2080) rather than the 30-year timeframe (2050) considered by the Working Group. The Sapere report found:

- The Port of Auckland has around 30 years’ capacity and the need to move it is therefore not considered to be as urgent as recommended by the Working Group. There is a ten-year period to make a decision, allowing for long lead times for infrastructure consenting and construction;

- road congestion is not a reason to move the port as concluded by the Working Group. The port is a minor contributor to current congestion in Auckland and a move would not lessen this;

- all the location scenarios would be difficult to engineer and consent, present very high costs and economic costs outweigh the economic benefit. This contrasts with the EY analysis, which underpinned the Working Group’s conclusions. That analysis indicated a net positive economic benefit from a full shift to Northport;

- the highest ranked option is Manukau Harbour, which is considered technically feasible although difficult to consent. The Working Group discounted this scenario as uninsurable. Sapere found that navigability of the harbour entrance and insurability of shipping to use the harbour are less of a concern than the Working Group identified, but this needs to be confirmed by a detailed feasibility study;

- neither the Port of Tauranga nor Northport are likely to be able to create sufficient long-term capacity to provide for both their own freight growth as well as Auckland’s. Sapere reached this conclusion using the same expert port engineers as used by the Working Group, but using a 60-year rather than a 30-year planning horizon, looking out as far as 2080 rather than 2050. In addition, a number of the supply chain actors, spoken to by Sapere’s transportation specialists, rejected Northport as an option because they see it as too far from, and on the wrong side of, Auckland.

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North port is a silly idea. Why would you drop off goods in Whangarei and then cart everything south where most things are destined. Ships only need to sail a little farther to reach Auckland or Tauranga. Also visa virsa when shipping out.

I agree, how on earth is Whangarei even on the table as a major entry/exit port? Manukau is a treacherous bar, not sure that is viable. The Firth of Thames sounds interesting, Imaybe a compromise and some economic regeneration for Thames etc.

Te Kooti
Agree how on earth was Whangarei ever considered?
It was never about practicalities, rather simply Shane’s and NZF election prospects.

I have a very low opinion of him.

Running a space hogging port on the most valuable land in the country is also a silly idea...

Oh well, can kicked far down the road.
One thing I'm sure of - if the port does move, it won't be within the next 10-15 years...

And not before another three or four working groups / committees / studies have had their day at the trough, either.

Port of TGA is out performing the Port of Auckland. Why cant North port be similar?

Summary redevelop Marsden Point, the Air base, the Auckland Waterfront with greenlight waterfront stadium and commercial precinct along with the redevelopment of Eden Park as proposed several years ago. Relocate Navy to new Port facilities, the redevelop the Devonport to Americas Cup and boat building facilities. Massive economic boost for Whargarei and Albany areas. Gets naval personnel out of an expensive area of Auckland. Its a 5 years of economic activity to set our grandchildren up for the next 100 years...

You could even print money to do all this to make sure our currency docent get two high vs the USD and Yen as they wage economic printing based warfare on the world.

We can't afford a stadium, so that's out. No one wants to tell Aucklanders the cost of having everything trained into the region and then trucked across Auckland in congestion - e.g. further than now - why is that? And to add insult to injury, Aucklanders would be contributing to a jobs-for-the-lads scheme in another region with taxes we badly need to solve Auckland problems, and for what? More apartments, bars and restaurants that we managed without before in a pre-Covid19 world? No deal.

Someone offered to build it for free to be given Eden park for redevelopment. Seemed worth investigating. Only sticking point was the port currently occupies that land.

So, after 15/20 years they will again consider shifting out of Manukau ?

Lets do this(not tomorrow,next year,the year after,next decade,by the turn of the century)Doesn't matter when really,lets keep NZ moving(don't know where to)

Words in a song Don't know who sang it. "Don't know where don't know when."

We'll meet again, sung by Vera Lynn in 1940.

Look at the stock photo. The answer is obvious. POAL is a glorified car park. Sometimes it's full and sometimes it's empty. Move vehicle ro/ro ship handling to Northport. Create a vehicle logistics centre on the vacant land around Northport.Onsite compliance facilities for used vehicles. Plenty of land for storing cars and trucks. Sydney moved all of their vehicle imports 80km south to Wollongong years ago. Works fine. Storing cars in the CBD is not cost-effective. The majority of the vehicles new or used need to be moved off the port in Auckland to other storage sites in Auckland then moved again to car yards and compliance centres once they have space or customer orders. Marsden point could offer on-site vehicle compliance and long term storage on the expanded port area. Cars and vehicles could come 150km overnight via road or maybe rail once the line is upgraded to Auckland. Delivery direct to dealers yards etc as required. No double or triple moving. Bledisloe wharf could then be returned to use as a container terminal. As it was before POAL sold off their other car wharves to ACC and Government to defuse their last debt bomb. ACC and POAL will not want to give up any business though. They have invested in a parking building for the imported cars and fancy new cranes and straddle carriers for the containers.

Ports of Auckland has recently built a car parking building for all the cars:
Plan is to have a public park on top of it when it's complete.

Both Manukau and Firth Thames will need significant dredging initially to allow large ships access to the port areas, plus continual dredging to keep the shipping lanes clear...both will be opposed by the Greens, Maori and others and the consenting will never happen.

I like the idea of 3km (two 1.5km sections) submerged tunnel, bridge or causeways from kawakawa bay out to minimally inhabited Chamberlains island south of waiheke (and from there to Waiheke too). The back side of Chamberlains has deep water and is out of sight of Auckland. Tunnels, rail and roads out there could be paid for by sale of port land.

Inspired idea, but think of the cost. This is the most original interesting of the options put forward.

China will build north port for free, they will do the rail to Auckland at a discount. Only proviso is they use their own labour who will be granted residency upon completion and the Chinese navy will have a 1,000 lease on the port.

Nationals re-election strategy.

Haha. Unfortunately if this wasn't exactly what happened to several other country's around the world, it would be funny.

Not a bad idea, we could renege on the deal after twenty three years, or has that already been done elsewhere?

In consideration of Manukau, in particular the bar issues, I wonder if any consideration has been given to the mass of black sand moving up the coast from Taranaki. Currently far far north as Port Waikato and expected to effect the Manukau Bar withing the next few yrs?

They want to dredge the iron sands down in Taranaki but being held up. Think its going to quite a high environmental court for decision. Maybe this is a factor in favour of dredging the iron sands down here. Less to shift up to Auckland!

What ever the considerations of Auckland's port are There is no excuse for the government not to provide North-port with good rail access as it has done for every other regional port in the country. similarly there is no excuse for them not to provide Northland with a decent rail link to the rest of the country. What Auckland does with it's port is it's business, but you cannot suppress the development of Northland because it may not suit Auckland; there has been too much of that already.

Once rail is in you will see POT buy in, and start attacking POA from both directions.

Doesn't POT already own 50% of Northport Limited?

You need Auckland's rail network and post-CRL running patterns to accommodate that freight from Northland.

As I said what Auckland does with it's port is it's own business. If they want to close their port and link into North-Port then they will have to ask Government for help with that.

I think the point is that the rail will have to run through Auckland to access Auckland or the rest of the country. To do so it will need to find a viable timeslot on the 2 track western line. Probably fine at night I guess.

I thought the issue with Manukau isnt the bar or the dredging - it was the port is on the wrong side of the island - as the other ports (Tauranga, Napier) are on the East side.

Wouldn't just a bit of landscaping of the port - perhaps a historic looking building or two - block the view from the city and make 90% of people happier about leaving the port where it is? Its the pile of containers I find the most offensive.

You need to keep at least a semblance of a working port in Auckland because its the logical place for ferries and cruise ships - which need tug boats, etc. The container cranes are pretty far down the port from the Central city. And with automatic loading and unloading you could store empties offsite by moving them cheaply and easily on the train (which goes directly into the port) - might need to double track though, but that would be a bonus to Auckland. Seems to me you could shrink the port's footprint dramatically, upgrade Northport (and its rail line), and Bob's your Uncle. That wasn't one of the options considered in this report because they were given the starting premise that the Port has to move.