On a recent Sunday I was at dinner in the restaurant in the old Seafarers’ building on Quay St, Auckland. Through big picture windows we looked out over the Waitemata harbour on a beautiful spring day. We could see the boats on the water, the houses sprinkled around the North Shore… but the entire foreground was dominated by hundreds of cars parked on Marsden Wharf, flanked by massive container cranes.
What a waste of one of the great harbours of the world.
At the moment the entrance to our harbour is a massive container terminal, hardly what one expects of a world class city. Other cities including Sydney, London, and San Francisco have all shifted their major container port activity out of the city centre. Such a shift will still mean that cruise ships will continue to use the downtown terminals. And it will be easier to expand the ferry terminal. It is already reaching capacity at peak times.
We could do the same as these other cities, and we don’t need to wait 30 years to do so. It could be done in the next five to ten years, provided the city leaders had the ambition and gumption to do so.
A Mayoral candidate who campaigned on moving the Ports of Auckland could do very well.
There are 61 hectares in the Bledisloe Fergusson port precinct. It has a 2014 valuation of $365 million, which is $6 million per hectare. There are market valuations closer to $1.5 billion, based on the uses that the land could be put to as the prime entrance to the city.
Could be even more than that.
Imagine a waterfront with some spectacular commercial buildings, a stadium located at the back of the precinct to tie in with the Vector Arena, and some of the most desirable residential real estate in New Zealand. And perhaps something unique to showcase Auckland right at the entrance to Waitemata harbour.
Would be stunning.
Of course a new container terminal will be required, and they don’t come cheap; maybe $4-5 billion.
Both Tauranga and Marsden Port are too far away. A sea city like Auckland, growing to as many as 3 million people by 2050, needs its own port. There are realistic alternatives. Manukau Harbour, if the issues of the bar can be dealt with, or the Firth of Thames perhaps near Orere Point are options. There has to be enough land for expansion, and motorway and rail connections are required.
How do we pay the $5 billion that will be required? Well, nearly 30% would come from the sale of land at the existing container terminal. No doubt quite a lot of the existing infrastructure, cranes, etc. can be disassembled and shifted.
Does the City Council have to stump up with the additional $3 billion? The answer is no.
Just as other New Zealand ports have private capital, so can the new Port of Auckland. Some of the capital can be raised locally, there could an international shareholder with expertise in ports, and some of the funds can be borrowed.
Would be a great campaign platform for a Mayor and council ticket.
I’d also like to see this happen in Wellington. Move the port to Seaview, which is already an industrial zone, and free up the prime waterfront for entertainment, recreation and accommodation.