Maritime Union throws support behind Port of Auckland board after mayor Wayne Brown said he'd 'lost confidence' in them

The Maritime Union is calling for the end of animosity at the Ports of Auckland after mayor Wayne Brown's latest attack. 

Brown told a media question-and-answer session this week he is "currently working on replacing the board, in which I have lost confidence". 

Brown wants board members who accept "much higher returns are required from port operations" than what is currently forecast. 

Maritime Union Auckland branch secretary Russell Mayn told AM on Wednesday the mayor's position is a mistake and the union is taking the "unusual position" of supporting the Port of Auckland board. 

"We've come through, on the waterfront, a very tumultuous ten years with a very poor health and safety record down here, followed by a failed automation process that has put the port behind the eight ball," Mayn told AM co-host Ryan Bridge. 

"We've met with the board, we've met with the new management at the port, and there have been some huge gains in health and safety and we have confidence that going forward the financial return to the council can be turned around."

The safety record of the Port of Auckland has been in the spotlight over recent years. 

The former chief executive of the Ports of Auckland - Tony Gibson - was charged following the death of a stevedore - the third linked to the ports in recent years.

But Mayn said he is very confident in the safety of the workers at the port and added in December they will become the first port to have minimum standards for safety. 

"These are huge steps and I guess my first concern would be when I hear the mayor saying they want to increase all the returns straight away in this very short time frame, my experience tells me this will come at the cost of workers' health and safety. That's the first thing that will impact," he told AM.

Brown hasn't met with Maritime Union since becoming mayor and Mayn said they'd be keen for that meeting to occur. 

"We've got years and years of experience in this and during COVID-19, we saw the importance of having a port in Auckland and a footprint to bring goods into the port," he said. 

The port has started work on the examination of the use of the area between the Ferry Building and Bledisloe Wharf but Mayn questioned if it was in the best interest to reduce the size of the port. 

'What happens in six months if we reduce the footprint of the port and take Bledisloe Wharf away as an operating port, and then we're hit with another pandemic or something like that," he said. 

"We don't have the logistics to hold all the goods for all the businesses in Auckland, all the toilet paper that goes into the supermarkets. None of that seems to have been thought through and there is no alternative to the ports of Auckland as an import port at the moment." 

Watch the full interview above.