A new report commissioned by the Maritime Union of New Zealand shows major downsides to any privatisation of operations at the Ports of Auckland.
The report entitled “The costs and risks of privatising Ports of Auckland operations” draws on international research including the experience of Australian ports in recent years.
Auckland Council is reviewing options to sell an operating lease for the Ports to a global network terminal operator, and has commissioned consultants to seek expressions of interest.
Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says a key concern coming out of the report is the potential for price hikes hitting port users – then being passed on to local industry and consumers.
Mr Harrison says privatisation of operations at Ports of Auckland is estimated to hit local port users with NZ$70 million in extra costs annually.
“Any private operator in Auckland would be in a monopoly position and would seek returns on its investment, on top of the lease cost – the profit has to come from somewhere.”
He says privatised port operations in Australia have seen surcharges of over AU$100 per container imposed on port users, who have no other options.
“The failed automation experiment at Ports of Auckland shows there is no fat to be cut at the Port, and private profit through privatization would be extracted from port users and the local economy.”
Mr Harrison says the primary value of the Ports of Auckland is how it facilitates trade.
He says there is growing concern there is no clear strategy for the Ports and decision making is being driven on a short term, ad hoc basis.
“The Ports of Auckland is going through the a period of growth and stability under new leadership with improving returns, and should be left to get on with the job and not meddled with.”