Phil Goff demands answers from Ports of Auckland in strongly-worded letter outlining its concerning performance

Phil Goff.
Phil Goff. Photo credit: RNZ

By Nita Blake-Persen of RNZ

Auckland's Mayor Phil Goff has written to Ports of Auckland to formally express his concerns about its performance.

The Ports' latest quarterly report for October-December 2020 reveals there have been four stop-work injuries - and that's in addition to three deaths linked to the ports in recent years.

In a letter sent by Goff to the Ports chair Bill Osborne last week, he alleges the company "does not show a willingness to be accountable for its performance".

The letter sets out concerns around health and safety, responsiveness, accountability and performance.

Goff states specific concerns around a delay in releasing an independent report, which was commissioned by the council and carried out by CHASNZ, into safety at the Ports of Auckland Limited (POAL).

"The time being taken by POAL to provide feedback to the draft CHASNZ review is unreasonably delaying the finalisation of the report. 

"More importantly, it is delaying POAL taking positive steps to address the findings of the report."

Goff said the current performance was not acceptable. 

"As a consequence of the issues outlined in this letter, I have a very low level of confidence that POALs is on course to improve this performance."

Osborne responded to the letter the following day, addressing concerns. He said while the Ports would try to improve its communication, it was giving its full attention and focus to the safety report.

"Management have advised me that they support the recommendations in the report, some of which they have already implemented and still more are being worked on. 

"I'm advised many of the recommendations in the draft CHASNZ report are in line with the actions already being taken across the business."

He said the report should be finalised and available to the board in the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, a scheduled public appearance by the Ports in front of Auckland councillors tomorrow will now be held in private to ensure a 'no holds barred' discussion.

Councillor Chris Darby said Ports' leadership had been reluctant to share information in a public setting, but councillors wanted to eliminate any excuses around not being transparent.

There will be plenty to discuss out of the public eye - the latest reports show four lost time injuries were recorded for quarter two, against an annual target of zero.

Additionally, crane rates - the number of containers that cranes take off a ship in an hour - was 24.61 for the quarter, against an annual target of 32.00.  

The ship rate - number of containers moved on and off a container ship in an hour - was 37.5 for the quarter against an annual target of 75.0.  

However the multi-cargo terminal average car dwell time for the quarter managed to exceed the annual target of 2.85 days with a result of 2.0 days.

Darby said there was a lot of work to do with the Ports, with two vacancies on the board after a number of departures last year, including board chair Liz Coutts.

He said he was surprised that Coutts left in the midst of several crises for the Ports - but he was confident the roles would be filled by people keen for a leadership challenge.