07 May 2015

No Port In Our Backyard

The port of Auckland is having a hard time trying to keep up with growth. They need to make the wharves longer and to reclaim some land for port operations. It is perhaps unfortunate that the port is located in the centre of a city run by people who would rather enjoy their lattes on waterfront promenades, instead of having them cluttered with cranes and containers.

The Grey Lynn aesthetes may be just indulging in their favourite sport, which is to remind the rest of us of their refined sensitivities and moral superiority. Or, they may well be on to something. Perhaps, the best solution would be to move the port to Whangarei, Tauranga or somewhere in the Firth of Thames. Anywhere, in fact, as long as it is as far away as possible from their backyards.

The only problem is that a move to Whangarei would require massive investments in rail and road harbour bridges or tunnels to Auckland, a move to Tauranga would need new tunnels in the Kaimai ranges and a whole new port would require a massive investment in new facilities, in addition to the new road and rail links. And the problem is that in New Zealand, these days, we just don’t do massive infrastructure. It simply not possible to undertake any of those public works without upsetting the habitat of some snails, kauri saplings or taniwhas. So, it is not going to happen.

The alternative to allowing the port to keep up with growth is to condemn it – and the city – to a graceful decline. The bigger container and cruise ships would sail by and Auckland would gradually become a commercial and industrial backwater. Like Wellington.

(This article was first published in the Exporter Magazine)