The publicity of Ports of Auckland Limited’s (POAL) future development plans caused concern amongst the general public of the adverse impacts of further reclamation for port activities extending out into the Waitemata Harbour. The alarm stemmed from the POAL’s submission on the Draft Auckland Plan and the plans for port development out to 2050 which following the completion of the consented Fergusson extension, progressively extended Bledisloe terminal, and then filled the water space between Bledisloe and Jellicoe wharf.
POAL maintained that its submission on the Draft Auckland Plan was not asking for extra development rights, but simply that the current zoning applicable to the port (and water space) be maintained so that the development outlined in its concept plans had a sense of security (subject to the RMA consent process). However, although the statutory status of the Auckland Plan in the RMA planning hierarchy is still up in the air, Auckland Council has clearly stated that the Auckland Plan is its guiding document and will inform the Unitary Plan (to be consulted on in late 2012 / early 2013) which will replace the Auckland Regional Plan : Coastal. Therefore POAL would clearly benefit from having its port development plans ratified by the Auckland Plan to assist its position for the Unitary Plan process.
On 6 March the Auckland Council voted on its position on the port development plans during deliberations on the Auckland Plan, and confirmed that:
- The Auckland Plan does not endorse any specific port expansion proposal;
- That in order to determine the long term (greater than 30 years) role of the Ports of Auckland in the Upper North Island freight network, and inform the long-term strategic choices for the Auckland waterfront (including the Unitary Plan), Auckland Council in conjunction with key stakeholders will lead and facilitate a study of port development options, which may confirm the status quo, identify different configuration alternatives at the current port locations, or identify as yet unexplored alternative locations for port infrastructure; and
- The RMA planning framework for the port area will be developed as part of Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan. That plan will take account of the Port of Auckland study.
This independent technical study into the current and future freight demand for ports and port related infrastructure in the Upper North Island was launched on 21 March. The study has been commissioned by the Upper North Island Strategic Alliance (UNISA) which comprises the Mayors and Chairs of Auckland Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Northland Regional Council, Waikato Regional Council, Hamilton City Council, Tauranga City Council and Whangarei District Council. The terms of reference for the study are still being developed and will require signoff from the UNISA members. The overall objective by UNISA is to work together to maximise sustainable development opportunities for all of the Upper North Island and its contribution to New Zealand.