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Super Port For Super City

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, April 23 NZPA - Ports of Auckland does not favour an iconic convention centre on its Bledisloe container terminal but it may vacate Queens Wharf at the bottom of Queen Street earlier than so far signalled.

The port yesterday unveiled a restructuring that creates a single stevedoring workforce at its largest Fergusson container terminal and opens the adjacent Bledisloe container terminal to non-containerised use. This will result in 30 job losses.

The port's managing director Jen Madsen said the port was at a crossroads. He envisages a super port for a super city.

This will not happen if aspiring super city mayor John Banks continues to back calls from Heart of the City campaigners for a signature building at Bledisloe where former Sports Minister Trevor Mallard had once had a vision for a sports stadium.

The possibilities for Auckland's waterfront have emerged in coverage of the issue of merging the city's councils into one super city.

The port's two container terminals, Fergusson and Bledisloe, are at the Parnell end of the waterfront and handle 36 percent of the country's container trade, including more export containers belonging to Fonterra than any other New Zealand port.

The port suffered a 7.4 percent decline in container volumes in the March quarter compared to a year ago and it revealed yesterday that volumes are down about 5 percent on last year so far in April.

The port is owned Auckland Regional Holdings, the commercial arm of Auckland Regional Council (ARC) and land at the western end of the waterfront has already been returned to the owner.

The question has always been how the largest container port in the country will co-exist with bars and apartments, which have so far mostly been developed by the private sector at the Viaduct Basin.

Mr Madsen said a port development plan released last year indicated that commercial port functions could move from Queens Wharf in two to three years.

With capacity freeing up at Bledisloe and a downturn in car imports the lead time could reduce, Mr Madsen said.

Bledisloe was needed for port operations. The port revealed yesterday that fuel could in future be also stored in tanks at Bledisloe. This was an option and would be a few years away.

Development plans have been showcased by the ARC and Auckland City Council for the Wynyard Wharf area to the west where fuel is currently stored at the so-called "tank farm".

Mr Madsen said the port was in close dialogue with ARC and had the full support of ARH.

The port is targeting cost savings of $5 million a year.

Since it began to fell the effects of the downturn the port has held back on capital expenditure, though it is investing $3 million on an inland hub at Wiri to which the Government has pledged $6m.

Wiri, which is connected by rail but needs sidings, could handle 100,000 containers a year, freeing up capacity on the waterfront.

Fergusson is the only container terminal in New Zealand that can put four cranes on a ship and potentially can put five.

"It is a question of maximising Fergusson but Bledisloe is still integral part of what we are doing," Mr Madsen said.

The port also has a capital review under way.

"Bankers like us," said Mr Madsen.

He said the port was important to Auckland and the port had to consider how it would compete with ports in eastern Australia as well as with other ports in New Zealand.

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