Shane Jones claps back at Judith Collins, Auckland Council over port move criticism

Shane Jones has hit back at Judith Collins and Auckland Council after criticism over the Government's plans to relocate Auckland's ports up north. 

Relocating the ports to Northland would "result in an extra 19 million kilometres of road transport and $81 million in extra annual costs," National MP and infrastructure spokesperson Judith Collins said on Wednesday. 

She said carbon emissions would "jump by 22,500 tonnes" if the Government goes through with the proposal, which was cooked up by coalition partner New Zealand First, and would cost an estimated $500 million. 

New Zealand First MP and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones clapped back at Ms Collins' comments, telling Newshub the National MP "cares zero about managing emissions, so that's just political froth". 

"There are deep and serious issues about a port strategy for our country," he said. "We're taking a rational and logical approach to logistical outcomes between the three ports [Auckland, Tauranga and Whangarei]". 

Mr Jones also responded to claims the Government has been ignoring Auckland Council in its plans to move the ports out of Auckland. Mayor Phil Goff reportedly expressed concerns about plans to shift the ports north, saying it could be "pre-determined" by the Government. 

Auckland Council's concerns were highlighted in a letter sent to Wayne Brown, Far North Mayor and chair of the Government working group Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy, ahead of the council's first official meeting with the group in December. 

The council wants the value of Ports of Auckland, which raked in $51.1 million last year, protected. It also wants a clear evidence-based strategy of how the ports could be shifted north, and what the future holds for the ports of Auckland, Tauranga and Whangarei. 

"My message to [Auckland] Council is that it needs to work on how it's going to fund the infrastructure projects that it has in front of it," said Mr Jones, adding that the council has "developed a habit, without trimming its costs, of looking to central government to fund its spending habits". 

He said the council ought to focus on its "over budget" City Rail Link project and Auckland's housing woes which "have been largely created by the failure of the planning department in Auckland City Council".

"Those are the issues that the council ought to focus on - not waste time writing letters or imagining problems that are not there.

"The Government has stuffed the back pocket of Auckland City Council with Government cash," Mr Jones added, going on to highlight how the Government supported and "defended" the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax. 

 "They may feel they have a mandate to leak things to Judith Collins and enable her to play politics against the MMP Government, but our Government is made up of Labour, the Greens and NZ First, and NZ First is expected to abide by robust processes when it seeks to allocate financial succour into the regions.

"As God is my witness, there will be a similarly robust process for any infrastructure project that the Auckland City Council thinks that it's going to get our Government to fund."

National's Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith criticised Mr Jones on Wednesday for "clear politicisation" of the Provincial Growth Fund he oversees, which was granted $3 billion over three years to enhance regional economic development opportunities.

He accused the New Zealand First MP of favouring Northland in his spending of the fund, and said Mr Jones is "damaging the relationship between council and Government" by overriding Auckland Council in its port shifting plans.

Mr Jones responded saying, "The notion that the Government is doing things behind the Auckland City Council's back is misguided and fallacious, and to push that view is very dangerous."

He said Mr Goldsmith "doesn't believe in provincial development", adding that as National's regional development spokesperson, Mr Goldsmith "never goes, talks or engages with provincial constituencies to any serious extent".