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Oliver Hartwich questions whether Auckland's port is in the right place

Oliver Hartwich questions whether Auckland's port is in the right place
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By Oliver Hartwich*

Among the most sought after locations you find in Sydney is the inner-city suburb of Pyrmont. It is not only home to headquarters of major companies such as American Express, Accenture, Vodafone, and Google. It has also become a major media hub with Fairfax, Seven West Media, and several radio stations all operating in the area.

Pyrmont is among the priciest suburbs in the whole of Sydney to buy an apartment. Besides, at 13,850 residents per square kilometre it is the most densely populated suburb in all of Australia.

Nobody would have seen Pyrmont’s rise coming 25 years ago. Back then, its population had dropped to under 1,000 people. The relocation of port activities from inner-city Pyrmont to the deep-water seaport located in Botany Bay had hit the area hard. But then Sydney discovered that a much better use of this conveniently located inner city area was not as a port facility but as a mixture of residential development and a hub for high-value add, white collar industries.

In case you are not already guessing why I am waxing lyrical about Pyrmont’s stunning regeneration, I am puzzled by plans to extend the inner-city Port of Auckland.

Looking over the harbour from any of the CBD’s skyscrapers makes you wonder whether having a port in the middle of Auckland is really the best possible use of land. Or more to the point, whether having a giant car park filled with Japanese used vehicles makes much sense just 500 metres away from busy Queen Street.

I readily admit that I find the whole discussion about the Auckland port expansion rather odd. Not just for aesthetic reasons. Auckland is blessed with a stunning natural harbour. Why on earth you would spoil it by having container shipping, car parks and the like in the centre of the city is beyond me.

From an economics perspective, I also wonder whether this inner city land might not yield more value if put to different uses. The example of Pyrmont seems to suggest that close proximity to the CBD and a harbour location is a draw card for businesses and residents alike. Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour area already demonstrates this. A port, meanwhile, could be anywhere provided it is well connected by road and rail.

I am not from Auckland, nor can I claim to be an expert on port operations, but I cannot help but wonder whether instead of talking about an extension of the port we should be talking about an entirely different question: Is the Port of Auckland really in the right spot?


*Oliver Hartwich is the executive director of the NZ Initiative.

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I know it's before your time, before you arrived in Wellington, but you should have seen the Viaduct Harboour precinct 30 odd years ago. It was one of the most tranquil little off the beaten track hidey-holes within walking distance of the CBD. It was beautiful. Peaceful. I used to walk through there nearly every day, then on Sunday could go down and sit on the edge of the outer causeway, take the kids, and enjoy the tranquility and solitude. Sheer bliss. Five minutes from the CBD. The only blemish was the Shell Fuel installations over the back in Packenham Street


Now look at it. More reclamation. Commercialised. Over-built. What it was, is gone forever.


And, you will never know.


It would be more sensible to expand Northport instead. Would provide jobs and improve road and rail links up north. And free up land for new housing in Auckland. But PoA is owned by local politicians and keeping land locked up makes voters feel richer.


You should have seen New Zealand decades ago, Work for everyone, pristine and healthy, no social, nor financial poblems, was heaven on earth.

Now we are heading for hell in a few short years, after Centuries of simple living.

Strange, but true.

Some people will do just about anything for making millions they can loot from the blood suckers who live here and cow tow to their financial masters abroad.

And do you not find it strange that each and every country is in the same boat and miss-managed by Bankers, to expand their war chest and play currency wars to boot and spy on each others citizens, friendly or not.

How sad are we all.

And now we must harbour even more problems, imported and aimed at Awkland's citizens.

Who love crap and ticky tacky boxes....

Go figure.


I too have lived in New Zealand for many decades, some also in Auckland. You are looking at the past with a very selective memory. "Work for all" was a cruel illusion because NZ Govt Departments soaked up the real unemployment in pointless, costly and completely unsustainable projects. That system broke exposing its 'workers' to pain they weren't prepared for and a false sense of entitlement. Even to this day some have never adjusted.


"Pristine and healthy" - I think not. Certainly not if you go by life expectancy. Standards were low and the drive to improve was non-existent. "We" put up with some appallingly low standards back then. This was the period when we learned our wasteful habits, the ones we now need to unlearn.


Even worse, we were mono-cultural. There was a fad of wanting to have everyone think the same. Today, diversity and open honest thinking is everywhere. Of course that fosters disagreement, but that is much better than the stifling 'old way'. (And besides, there was no internet to allow differing views to surface.) Today is sunshine compared with 'decades ago' that was dull and grey.


Maybe bankers are a problem today. But 'decades ago' banks offered appalling service. You didn't shift because another banks might be worse. Today banks offer fantastic service and because all of them do, there is no penalty to shifting banks. Their loss, customer's gain. Finally we have real competition between banks. No longer just four, but now ten national banks. It is better now in every way.


As for Auckland, I wasn't born here but I love it. It has huge advantages. It is a lifestyle magnet. If you live here it is obvious why it is booming. And I can understand why others might feel 'jealous'. Problems? yes of course. But the benefits far outweigh those.


"Decades ago" as "heaven on earth" ? If you think that you have very low standards indeed.


How kind.!

We can only agree to differ on most. Thanks be praised.

However, on one thing we do agree.

 Government Depts soaking up unemployment, little has changed, they are mostly a waste of space, time, resource and taxes and the highest in Awkland and the other honourable wastrels in Wellington, fill me with dismay and horror.

But then, nothing has changed on that score, except the tally has increased exponentially.


The article didn't mention one of the dumber issues of the port - which is placing the onus of land transport on the central city's roads and rail. Where to place a major shipping hub? Downtown CBD of a city with terrible transport infrastructure, obviously.


Tauranga ! and Port Chalmers.


A couple of years ago I had a discussion with someone in the shipping industry about having a major port, the major port, in the postion it is in. Hard to get to and from and all the other issues.

Seems to be that the answer is not as simple as it appears.

Northland might seem to be a good idea, it will require an extra railway line next to the existing one and a major upgrade of the road all the way over the Brynderwynn. If we look at the opposition the road upgrade to Warkworth is creating one can only start to imagine what all that will do. Not to mention that there are billions required to create a port that can take the ships Auckland can, either near the refinery or in Whangarei.

Tauranga can not take the ships either as the harbour is not  big and deep enough, the bar and harbour would need constant dredging with huge potential environmental issues that can cause. Again not to mention road/rail infrastructure to get most of the cargo to Auckland.

Any west coast harbour is not suitable for that kind of shipping traffic.

Napier will need a total change so large that even an earthquake can not achieve. Plus transport issues.

Barging the containers from any port back to Auckland does not solve many issues either. Replacing a few big ships per day with hundreds of barges and their towing vessels. Although we can put a terminal on Waiheke Island to take these barges, build a tunnel terminating in St Heliers connect that to the motoway through Remuera ending up at the Greenlane roundabout. I can just see that fly. At least it would make the Auckland waterfront a place of tranquility again.

All future governments should have as number one policy the de-industrialisation of Auckland and spread this around the country, spread the love in other words. It would also solve the port problem, the housing price issue (for Auckland that is)  and we would not need another harbour crossing. Once that is done we can do an Auckland rebuild in Taihape, nice and central. What is there not to like.


Everyone is for progress, development, intensification. 

It provides jobs, security, good for the environment, solves traffic issues and the like.

Problem is nobody wants to live with one or other aspect of that change.

Auckland is by no means ideal but any port alternative in a democratic world will take longer to sort out then the human race has left inhabiting this planet.