Group of prominent Aucklanders sign open letter opposing Ports of Auckland 35-year lease

By Maia Ingoe for RNZ

A group of prominent Aucklanders has signed a letter opposing a 35-year lease of Auckland's downtown port.

The letter, sent to Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown, says the lease of the city centre port location locks in unsustainable industrial activity until at least 2060.

Brown introduced the proposal for a 35-year lease of the port in Auckland's draft Long Term Plan.

The letter calls on councillors to vote against the proposal, and to transform the port location into a public waterfront, akin to the Viaduct and Wynard Quarter.

It has been signed by 30 people, including Sir Stephen Tindall, Lady Pippa Blake, Sir Ralph Norris, and Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick.

Titled 'Stop Stealing Our Harbour', the letter argues the lease would ignore the findings of the last three studies on the port's location, which conclude that its position in the CBD was unsustainable.

"As the recent Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter waterfront developments show, we can create enormous social, economic, and environmental value by transforming industrial port zones into thriving urban environments," the letter reads.

"Locking the port into its current location until at least 2060 removes any possibility of replicating these rewards at the eastern end of our waterfront within our lifetimes."

Stop Stealing Our Harbour campaign spokesperson Michael Goldwater said the city centre location could not support the port's growth.

"The problem with having the port right in the heart of the city is that you've got multiple pressures. The port will eventually grow because of the population growth, but there's nowhere for it to go.

"The port has lost it's social license to keep on filling in the harbour to infinity, which is sort of what it's been doing for 150 years."

The port placed pressure on the transport network, and took up space with potential to be used for housing or as a public space, he said.

"I think the key factor is actually the opportunity costs of having the port right in the heart of the centre, essentially in our most valuable piece of land that we have."

Comment has been sought from Ports of Auckland and Wayne Brown.