Winston Peters says we're now in compromise territory; National wasn't a fan of the Auckland Port to Whangarei move, but something has to be shifted up there; Is the answer across the water?

By Alex Tarrant

We’ve now got to compromise territory over some of the key policy sticking points between New Zealand First and the two major parties.

This indicates to us that we might not just be seeing a National or Labour policy platform with the addition of a handful of New Zealand First infrastructure projects, scoping studies or support of bills to Select Committee on the side to keep Winston’s lot occupied for the next few years.

In other words, we’re looking at getting something in between the mammoth 1996 manifesto between National and NZ First and the relatively tame agreement between Labour and NZ First in 2005 (full of scoping studies and first readings support). Read my review of both agreements here.

Looking through the parties’ respective positions, it does look like National has more than Labour that would require compromise on with New Zealand First, if the two parties were to present some sort of combined platform for the next three years.

Immigration, the Ports of Auckland move and regional rail pop into mind (alongside relatively inexpensive seniors policies, a Minister for Pike River and something targeting bottled water exports – a review is already underway by National) when thinking about ‘statement’ policies that New Zealand First would desire some movement on.

On immigration, I don’t see why National couldn’t just adopt, to some extent, Labour’s below-bachelor level international student stance as a way to try and placate Peters. Add in a more stringent English-language test for migrants while talking about local skills, and Bob’s your uncle.

It’s the NZ First policy to shift the Auckland Port to Whangarei which has me wondering whether National would ever commit to supporting such a project. So, could there be compromise here somehow, in a way which keeps both sides happy? (Labour supports the move.)

For Peters and NZ First, National will have to agree to some sort of development in Whangarei (and Labour too if they're told the port move would cost too much and go back on it). And, going along the lines of Peters’ thinking that the move would need to benefit Auckland as well, something touching on that is required; it would be nice to open up more waterfront land for housing in Auckland, for example.

The compromise might be staring everyone in the face – almost literally. Look across the harbour from the port, and what do you see? The Devonport naval base. Many an article has been written about moving the base from its prime location, with Whangarei being the typical destination talked about – the Defence Force has even done reviews on the subject.

Whangarei would get what Peters and NZ First are keen on – development and a larger port complex. A common-sense, law-abiding population boost would be touted. Hey, there’ll even be somewhere for Ron Mark’s military boot camps to take place in the North when the shift is complete. It should be easy enough adding in the appendix that rail to Marsden Point will also be provided.

This was described to me by two people today - one inside the Parliamentary tent, the other a keen watcher on the outside - as able to be argued as a sensible compromise. Whether it’s discussed, or enough to bring Peters on board, we must wait and see.

Perhaps his board and caucus really will have a strong influence on what way the party goes? Perhaps he really is intent on a wholesale shift back to pre-1984 economic policy, and the social fabric we had under Holyoake? National might be required to compromise on a whole lot more, if that is the case.

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28 Comments

Thrilled you have raised this - my master research was on the feasibility of this. And the questions that I recently asked Treasury - if we suggested moving the naval base to Oriental Parade in Wellington - everyone would say we are idiots - but how come keeping it on real estate at twice the price makes more sense

Makes sense. Population growth and associated services/construction etc to Whangarei, convert the Devonport Naval base into residential housing. Almost seems like a no brainer.

but where will you get the experienced navy personnel from, most would resign rather than live there, not to mention partners who may have well paying jobs in Auckland.

on the face of it seems a good idea but when you drill down not so good

So they can go to see for years at a time but can't move 2 hours away? Given that the navy stopped providing subsidised rentals a few years ago, there would be substantial savingsin outgoings for the low-paid naval staff.

They talked about market rent back when you could rent a four bedroom villa on the North Shore for $380 a fortnight. Rent rise never happend. Only down side was not being able to own and rent a property if you lived in Married Quarter. Would be interested to know if this is still the case. Move the base get rid of the frigates.

Years ago CentrePort made an offer to the Minister of Defence - give us the naval base and we will give you a new naval base in Wellington- Marlborough. New for Old but the chance to rationalise vast land, Tamaki and housing.

Sydney moved the big port to Botany. ( you can see it across the water from the Airport ) and by design keeps a lot of those smaller industrial sites on Sydney harbour, because they give interest to the place. Endless residential and cafes is uninteresting, but downtown Auckland for the big port is outright unsuitable.
There is no problem with Whangarei and the Mount stepping up and we do need to develop excellent rail between them anyway.
Remembering that the South Island is the big exporter, and Auckland is the big import port. But why bring all that stuff into Auckland at all because lots of it is just sent elsewhere.

Auck needs an Am Cup base as well. That could be hosted out of Devonport as well, though not that great for the pubs etc on the other side. Navy move means the weapons storage at Kauri point and all associated services have to go as well, read in a lot more than just the ships and docks.

Still think long term that the Port makes more sense with rail back to the Hobsonville area for a second inland port. Boost for Northland and Auckland Council could sure use the money from this land for a ton of other stuff. If you look at how successful the port of Tauranga and inland port at Penrose has been, there is no operational reason for the port to stay In Auckland.

And next they will be saying move Whenuapai to Ohakea....

Whenuapai ain't going anywhere. In the midst of massive capital improvements.

If they relocate the Air force base, all the Air-force staff whose other halves have a good job resign to avoid relocating.

That is always cited as the reason against moves. 'Yes Prime Minister' did a brilliant episode where it was all about the wives getting to Harrod's sale. Defence people move a lot - and that hasn't stopped lots of entities in the public and private sector moving from/to Auckland - all of whom also had partners.

I think there is a good chance Whenuapai will go at some stage, its just too easy a target for government accountants. Hopefully the RNZAF get a new base somewhere else, Christchurch area, or maybe Napier? Cramming everything into Ohakea probably isn't the greatest idea..

I am ex services (yes, I've done many things in my life). When I was enlisted I accepted that I could be posted anywhere, and that generally the Military was sited in some very average locations. However those locations were good from the point of view that the noise we made didn't disturb many neighbours and potential attack on our installations wasn't going to take out lots of civilians. If your service loyalty depends on being posted to a nice place in Auckland then maybe you are better off in a civilian career?

Well said Sir, time to move both base and dockyard.

Wow! Perhaps its time to look at the history of the Service and realize that the Country's best interests have led to greater sacrifice then having to relocate.

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is it me or is it the one tail that will get the dog to actually do something after nine long years, unlike the previous 3 tails that did nothing but cushion the bum when the dog sat down

Not a bad Idea. But I would be very surprised if we do not see the Roll on Roll off operation shift to Whangarei also because Phill Goff has already raised that he favoured shifting the Import car operation to Marsden. It would also be reasonable to expect that the government should complete the short 12-13 km rail link to the port. This is a short length in relatively open country and should not be very expensive at all and it would have the benefit of removing logging truck off the Northland roads.
Up grading the line to accommodate high cube containers between between Auckland and Whangarei is likely to be a significantly bigger undertaking, but this could be tackled progressively over a number of years.
If say, enough work for three rail crews was tendered out on an almost continuous basis, the work could be prioritised and over time the whole rail system bought up to standard. How much per year would three rail crews cost per year. Say 30 men and associated plant in crews that would get very efficient over time. $10 to $30 million/year would go a long way.

Improving rail between Auckland and Whangerai would be expensive. Very expensive. However the rails exist so it can be done in stages and the costs can be split between the port, tourists and commuters - given a high speed rail Helensville to Kumeu would be commuter country - plenty of money to be made by developers.

The distances are pretty minimal compared to overseas. Auckland - Marsden point is similar to Auckland- Mount , or Auckland-Thames. Really its a wash longterm, leaving Marsden Point with the advantage of been deep enough to not need dredging .
The only thing holding Mardsen point back to date is National's reluctance to invest in the Railway.

Marsden is quite a lot closer than Mt Maunganui. Almost half the distance. If you were freighting goods to the north shore it would be very debatable whether you would bother with rail. Marsden to Silverdale - 70km, direct, with no double handling at an Auckland rail depot?

Selling the naval-base land at Devonport would also provide money to do something about Lake Rd, which is one of the most-congested roads in Auckland.

I used to have to use Lake Road daily and do not miss it. I always thought that if someone wanted to attack NZ, they should do it at morning rush-hour as all the naval workers would be stuck in traffic

With trains every 10 mins on the western line there is no room for freight trains.

About as mad an idea as governments could have ever dreamt up.

Total costs in excess of $10 Billion - and BTW the port is owned by the council - not the Crown. Relax not going to happen - just the usual multimillion dollar studies to enrich the consultants.

And the council is now run by Mr Goff, who I am sure would be happy to give up the port if it was to install Jacinda as PM.

Not sure why this conversation should be an either/or. There are good reasons to move both the port and the naval base.

Moving the port to Marsden is MADNES MADNESS MADNESS. 80% of the freight is imports of which about 75% is consumed by Auckland. Most of the trucking from the port is done at night for ease of traffic access. Devonport could be an option but road access is not good.

Now that Winston is no longer MP for Northland moving the port up there will not be a priority for him at all