Transcript: Phil Goff, Michael Goldwater, Winston Peters, Chris Carr

  • 04/06/2016
Transcript: Phil Goff, Michael Goldwater, Winston Peters, Chris Carr

Lisa Owen: Plonked on the so-called front porch of our largest city, Auckland Port's future is once again up for debate. A study into the future of the port basically to stay put or relocate is due out in the next couple of weeks. So where should it go, and is anyone really brave enough to make the hard call? Well, I'm joined now by four men who are, Auckland mayoral candidate Phil Goff, Michael Goldwater from Stop Stealing Our Harbour, Northland MP Winston Peters and Chris Carr from transport company Carr & Haslam. Thanks for joining me this morning. Phil Goff, if can come to you first, you've said that the port should be moved. Where to and why?

Phil Goff: Well, the EY report that hasn't been published yet says that there are options on the Hauraki Gulf and there's options on the Manukau Harbour. I don't think it will be definitive about where it should move to, but I want to make this point very definitely – the choice we have as the port reaches full capacity is either to expand it out into the Waitemata Harbour or to move it. My preference is to move it. I don't think we should be reclaiming any more of our harbour. The thing we should be reclaiming is public access to our harbour which we've lost over the past hundred years.

Michael Goldwater, you were heavily involved in the protest last year to stop that expansion into the harbour. Where should the port go? Should it go to Manukau?

Michael Goldwater: Well, it can either go to Manukau or the Firth of Thames. We have an enormous coastline, and we have to find a place that has greater capacity for a port that's going to fulfill the freight task as Auckland grows. The Waitemata doesn't have that capacity now, and I completely agree with Phil and I've got to say I'm very impressed that he does have the courage to come out and say the things that he's saying.

Winston Peters, you think that the port should be moved out of Auckland up to Whangarei. Why?

Winston Peters: Well, the options that you've got in Auckland, the Firth of Thames or Muriwai, these options are not even viable. Their depth of water is not sufficient. You'd have huge dredging problems and everything else to go with it. And sitting up there is a deep-water port requiring a minimum of work to take the biggest boats that are coming into the future, closest to our international markets. It's got a huge area of flat land to go with it. It is so obvious, but it's just infrastructural neglect in terms of governmental planning on this matter.

Chris Carr, three men here think it should be moved. They've put out some good reasons. What's wrong with what they're saying?

Chris Carr: Well, I guess the pragmatic view from an Aucklander and then a road transport operator is that we have to have a port in Auckland to serve Auckland. Whether it physically remains in Auckland I guess is an interesting debate, but there's capacity for the port to remain where it is for 50-odd years with a few tweaks. So looking at the cost of moving the port or taking an alternative to it, you're looking at something like $5 billion to start to do any option, including Northland. So it's the case of do you want to spend that kind of money now, or do you want to have a decent look at it and plan for the future, like my children's children's children will be around when the port needs to move.

We'll come to the cost a bit later, but eventually it is going to have to move, isn't it? You say it's got capacity for 50 years, but some reports say 20, 25 years before it's full. People don't want a car park on their waterfront, do they?

Carr: It's an interesting thing, the analogy for car park, because I don't think anybody really understands that those cars sit there for an average of about 1.2 to 2.5 days and containers sit on the wharf for a dwell time of 1.7, so it's not actually a car park. It's an inventory holding zone, which is all a port ever is, so stuff comes in and comes out—

But it looks like—

Goldwater: No matter how you put it, it's a car park.

It looks like a car park to people driving past the waterfront.

Goldwater: It is a car park.

250,000 cars go through there a year.

Carr: Exactly, 250,000, so where are you going to put them? Somewhere else? And the interesting thing with Winston's suggestion of Northport – which I agree with him 100 percent; it's a great port – it's simply not big enough. It doesn't have enough berth space. It needs three berths. And if you look at Tauranga, who are doing a fantastic job with covering already for about 25 percent, 30 percent of Auckland's port capacity, they can't deal with the extra capacity from Auckland. So then you need to look at a new port.

Goff: Well, let's pick up that. We've got the most valuable land in the country at the bottom of the central business district, and it's being used to store cars and containers and, of course, the tank farm, which is going anyway. In three to 12 years, our bulk cargo, such as cars, they'll have reached capacity on the Auckland waterfront for that.

Yeah, but it's not cheap to move it, though.

Goff: You can. Well, it's—

It's 5 billion, they're saying.

Goff: What you can do as an interim is that you can move the used cars off the wharves in Auckland and you could put them in Northport. I've talked to people, a former CEO of Ports of Auckland Ltd. He said it doesn't make sense to have the used cars at the bottom of Auckland's central business district. You've got cheap land at Northport. You could be using it for that function, not the whole of the port but the cars at least in the interim as Auckland reaches capacity to go there.

But who's paying the 5 billion? You've got a council who say they can't afford infrastructure for housing.

Goff: You don't need 5 billion to actually get the cars offloaded at Northport. The chief executive of Northport has told me that he can deliver the cars to the consumer in Auckland for the same price as they get it from those cars sitting on really expensive real estate.

Carr: How can they do that?

Peters: Look, if you go to Memphis in the United States, you'll see a great port inland, because it's really, with the modern technology and computerisation, it's a cargo movement place. What you've got down here in Auckland, a giant car park. It is an eyesore. It is a bad use of a great asset.

Carr: Some of those are great cars.

Peters: Well, they might be great cars, but—

Goff: The cars are fine. Park them somewhere else, though, Chris.

Peters: If you want a plan, go to the place where you've got the best natural facilities in the whole darn country. That's Northport.

Goldwater: And what have other countries done?

Peters: And Tauranga will help out as well.

Goldwater: What have other countries done? What has Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, New York, San Francisco, London, what have they done? They've moved—

Carr: They've changed their ports within their cities, not moved them.

Goldwater: Well, Sydney has moved their port. Can you imagine? Let's move those cars in front of the Sydney Opera House.

Mr Peters, you've suggesting Northland, but we don't have the infrastructure there, the rail capacity. The tunnels can't even fit the containers. How realistic is that?

Peters: Well, just because you've got a sort of retarded group down in Wellington who doesn't understand the structural investment that's required, there's no need for us to go into the future with no plans. It's as close as to our international markets as any other part of the country. It is, as I say, you can't get that facility in Auckland. And the idea you've got to go to Muriwai or the Firth of Thames and start dredging up all the soil will be opposed by everybody. Take the only option there is. A guy like the head of Mainfreight—

But, Mr Peters, KiwiRail has laid out some figures. It's 240 million to get a proper train line from Waitakere to Northport.

Goldwater: What's the actual cost of keeping it there? We talk about the cost of moving the port. What's the cost of keeping it there? I've heard figures of $2 billion over the next 20 or 30 years to keep the port there. And what is our cost of lost opportunity?

So what—?

Carr: The reality is—

Goldwater: So the reality is, actually, we have one of the best waterfronts in the world. We could transform Auckland. I mean, it's CBD waterfront.

Carr: Let me just hold you there. So if you transform Auckland, that means you have no port in Auckland.

Goldwater: No one has said that.

Goff: Nobody's saying that.

Carr: What, you have half a port, half the infrastructure?

Goldwater: No, we move the port.

Goff: I think it's really important you see this thing in context. If you've got freight, we're at the point where the bulk cargo is reaching capacity, and in 20 to 40 years the container cargo will reach capacity—

Carr: The freight in containers—

Goff: Sorry, I'll just finish that if I can, Chris. The first decision you've got to make is are you going to expand out into the harbour, or are you going to find an alternative location? My position's very clear. We have to preserve our harbour. We've got to restore access to the harbour by the public. Those 75 hectares can be used for far better revenue-raising purposes, high-value commercial, residential and public space. The second point, and you're in the trucking game, each day 2000 trucks go out of the CBD. 70 percent of those are heading to the south of Auckland. We are facing gridlock now. If we move the port, we can help with that congestion problem.

Okay, so you like Manukau better, then, Mr Goff?

Goff: I think the jury is out on what the preferred location is, because the work hasn't been done, frankly, and not even this study will provide us with that definitive answer.

Mr Gold—

Peters: Lisa, look, the ships that are coming are of the size that the Auckland port cannot be able to able, so why don't we stop kidding ourselves? Only one port in the country is going to be able to handle those ships, and that's admitted by Tauranga and everywhere else, and that's Northport.

Goldwater: Winston is correct. The port is obsolete.

Peters: They're coming.

Goldwater: The port is obsolete.

Carr: I think, Michael, that's a crazy statement.

Let's allow Chris Carr—

Goldwater: It's car crazy.

Let's allow Chris Carr to respond to that. Michael Goldwater says the port is obsolete.

Carr: Well, the port study, Ernst & Young are in the midst of doing their million-dollar study now. We've had the North Island port studies. They've all given the port 50 years to run within—

Goldwater: It depends what—

Carr: Hang on. Within their container operations.

Goldwater: No, it depends on what your growth rates are.

Carr: Michael, you're a yachtsman. You're not a man who's going—

Goldwater: I actually am a man who's looked into this over the last year and read many reports.

Peters: Who made Ernst & Young an expert on transportation?

Carr: No, hang on. Hang on.

Goff: The thing about EY, as I understand it, is that they say, and you've said it too, Chris, in 50 years you've reached total capacity. You've got to plan ahead now to make decisions for the future.

Okay, well, in terms—

Goff: You've got to make the decision now. It'll take 20 years to move the port.

Gentlemen, in terms of planning ahead—

Goff: Let's make a decision now about what we're going to do.

In terms of planning ahead, Michael Goldwater, you've said that the port we've currently got is on our front porch, but if you move it, you're moving it on to someone else's front doorstep, aren't you? You're still going to have the same light, noise, pollution, environmental pollution, so is it okay to dump it down in Manukau?

Goldwater: Well, the thing is it will be a modern port. I mean, for example, the port in San Francisco has an ecological wetland right in the middle of it. More birds migrate to that spot than there were 50 years ago. Now, so what I'm saying is it wouldn't look like what we've got down there, which is a mess.

Yeah, so, Phil Goff—

Carr: That's from someone who doesn't appreciate it.

We move the port so rich Auckland gets apartments and nice parklands at the front and we move it out to South Auckland where we put the prisons and everything else?

Goff: No. I mean, if you look at the Manukau site—

Carr: Manukau's nuts.

Goff: Well, no, I don't think you can say that.

Carr: I can.

Goff: If you look at the site south of the airport, you would say that there is an ideal spot. It requires dredging, but you're right next to the freight lines, you are in an area that is less ecologically sensitive. You're not in an area that is the focus point of both local people and visitors to the city. You're talking about an area that people don't go into.

Chris Carr, jump in. He says it's nuts.

Carr: Manukau's nuts. It's the site of the worst marine disaster we've ever had in New Zealand.

Goff: That was in the 1870s. Chris, technology's moved on.

Carr: And big ships don't come since then, so you're not going to get—

Goff: No, no, no, that's not correct.

Carr: One shipping company. Not one is going to come through the Manukau Heads. What you'll have is a—

Goff: When I was a kid, my dad was a marine engineer on the Union Shipping Company, and he used to sail into the Manukau.

Mr Goff, let him finish.

Carr: You're a politician. You're used to talking, so give me a chance.

Goff: Okay.

Carr: But what you've got with the Manukau Harbour, it'll be the ultimate shipless port, because no shipping company is going to send their vessels through the Manukau bar. It's just not going to happen. You're going to have to reclaim with iwi consent 100 hectares of Manukau Harbour and dredge each year half a million cubic metres of mud—

Goldwater: Alternatively, we could double the size of the port on the Waitemata. Is that what you're suggesting?

Carr: No, no, I'm not—

Goldwater: That's actually—

Carr: Michael—

Goldwater: No, no, earlier you used the word 'tweak', okay, which is a euphemism for doubling the size of the port.

Carr: It's not in my book, it's not.

Goldwater: Well, that's the reality. That is the reality.

Carr: No, it's not.

Peters: Auckland's future is mainly as a tourism port for passenger liners.

Goldwater: Absolutely.

Peters: And for the beautification of the harbour. It is a gem, but it cannot go one metre out further. That's a fact. Why don't we face the reality? Staring there is a great option, and it's only being held up by a lack of infrastructural investment.

But Northland's not even on the shortlist from the group working on this.

Peters: It may not be on the shortlist now, but there will come a time very soon, Lisa, when it'll be on the list, all right?

Goff: Hey, let—

Just a minute, Mr Goff. Who's going to pay for it, Mr Peters? Who's going to pay to move it to Northland?

Peters: You know, this would have been a great time to actually borrow. It's the cheapest it's ever been for that sort of infrastructural investment. It's just a lack of vision and leadership that's going on in this country that stops that sort of development. It is au naturel the best thing we could do.

Okay. Mr Carr, can the freighters afford to be trucking stuff back and forward from Whangarei—?

Peters: No, trains. We're not going to have a carbon footprint of trucks going up and down there.

Carr: If we deal with trains, KiwiRail recently have come and said it's going to cost them somewhere between $250 million and $2 billion to put a railway line to bring it down to Auckland. That doesn't even allow—

Peters: Well, that's false.

Carr: That's what they said. It's not my figures. That's what they all say…

Peters: If you—

Let him finish, Mr Peters.

Carr: …is that there is no rail capacity in Auckland to bring that railway line from the north and to get it to where their freight yards are, and once they don't get it to their freight yards, then they don't have enough room at their freight yards to not receive the cargo. So you've got a whole lot of infrastructural things which need to be addressed if you're going to do it. It's the same if you go to somewhere in Tauranga, for example, MetroPort facility now—

Peters: I cannot believe I'm hearing this. Look, every country in the world is modernising their railway lines all around the world excepting one country putting up this – present company excepted – putting up with the option of a carbon footprint of trucks rolling up and down the roads, causing damage of 10,000 cars each time they pass down the road. This is stupid.

I've got a point, Mr Goff, which is the working group has said that basically all of these options will struggle to get consent. Can you get any of these through, Mr Goff?

Goff: Yeah, yeah, of course you can if there's the facts and the logic behind it. But let me make the obvious point, is that none of the reports that we've looked at to date have taken the approach of a regional or a national port strategy. The EY report study is hobbled by the fact that it hasn't looked at the options of what role Tauranga plays, what role Northport plays. So the first thing you have to do, we can have the discussion about Manukau or Hauraki or Northport, you've got to have the facts on the table, and because the Government has refused to be part of this process, we haven't got the facts on the table. So let's make an evidence-based decision on where the port should alternatively be located. But I want to make one last point about this, very shortly, that at the moment 90 percent of the freight leaving Auckland Port goes by road and it congests our local roads and our motorways. We need a solution where you can rail freight your freight from the port to where it's going to.

All right, we're running out of time. Before we go, gentlemen, last words going to Mr Peters on a different subject. We're talking to the Greens and Labour shortly about the arrangement they've come up with this week. At the last election, you called the Greens extremist. Is that still your view?

Peters: Look, you and the media can paint this any which way you like. They're free. It's a free world. They can have associations if they like, but here's the point. It expires on election night – when that is – it expires when the polling booths close on election night. What sort of deal is this, actually? Have a good hard look at it. So I'm not going to react to that.

All right, thank you all for joining me this morning.

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