The Maritime Union says any privatization of the Ports of Auckland would be a disaster for Auckland.
The Union was responding to the upcoming release of Council commissioned reviews into the future of the ports, and media reports of the possibility of an operating lease for the Ports going to a global operator.
Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says relinquishing control of Auckland’s key strategic asset would be a “lose lose situation” for ratepayers, workers and businesses.
“The Australian experience is privatisation of port operations creates another layer of management costs and profit-taking for no real benefits.”
Mr Harrison says potential outcomes could include customers facing higher terminal charges, infrastructure being run down, workers’ pay and conditions being attacked, and a lack of accountability by overseas equity investors.
“The risks of going down this path are massive, and the only beneficiaries in the long term would be the new owners.”
Mr Harrison says the “one off sugar hit” of privatization would soon wear off if the Port was permitted to effectively become a private monopoly.
“Splitting off leased port operations from land ownership does not change the fact the Ports would be privatized and the new owner would have huge leverage over Auckland.
Mr Harrison says the dependence of New Zealand on global shipping lines during the COVID pandemic created major problems for New Zealand business, with delays, congestion and price hikes.
He says as there is no strategic plan for New Zealand ports, the entry of Global Network Terminal operators would have similar implications and could destabilize the national supply chain.
Mr Harrison says after years of mismanagement, the Ports of Auckland has recently turned the corner in performance.
He says historic problems were a result of previous port management’s hostile approach to its workforce and the flawed automation project.
“New management and the union workforce are now working in a constructive and positive way, and with the cancellation of the automation project, the Ports are back on track delivering to Auckland.”
Mr Harrison says there is not wide support for privatization and most ratepayers do not want to see key assets sold off.
“Our advice for Auckland Council is to leave the Ports to get on with the job without continually moving the goalposts.”
Mr Harrison says the Maritime Union welcomed today’s statement from the Mayor that he was open minded about the outcome of the current review, and that he would be engaging with stakeholders including the Union.
The Maritime Union of New Zealand represents the majority of the workforce at Ports of Auckland.