May 20, 2024

National strategy required for future of New Zealand ports and shipping

The Maritime Union says there needs to be national level planning around ports and coastal shipping, otherwise New Zealand is going to find itself in a bad position.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says there needs to be a stronger response to building resilience into the supply chain.

The Productivity Commission has noted disruptions to global supply chain trends are likely to become more frequent with causes including pandemics, war and climate change.

Mr Harrison says the Union is calling for political solutions including a port strategy and investment in coastal shipping.

He says one problem is how New Zealand ports are primarily seen as income streams for owners, as opposed to national infrastructure that underpins the successful functioning of the economy.

An example of lack of co-ordination is the multiple conflicts around the future of the Port of Auckland, he says.

“In the case of Port of Auckland, we have major roading and rail projects being proposed at the same time as a privatization agenda and plans to shrink the port despite no clear alternative capacity – in other words, total confusion.”

He says claims there can be a straightforward relocation of port activities to Northport (Whangarei) or Tauranga are unrealistic.

“Northport does not even have a rail link at this stage, and Tauranga is operating close to capacity. This situation is not going to be resolved by highway mega-projects that simply move congestion around.”

He says with ongoing climate-driven weather events becoming more severe, proposals to sink more and more resources into roading projects shows a refusal to face facts. 

Mr Harrison says there needs to be a strategic shift to build the role of coastal shipping.

He says New Zealand coastal shipping provided resilience that was demonstrated during COVID and during natural disasters such as earthquakes or flooding, when regional land links were out of action.

“For a fraction of the enormous price tag of monster motorways, New Zealand could become a leader with investment into low emission coastal shipping, and create safer, less congested roads.”

“The recent Government investment and resulting growth in coastal shipping shows the potential but there needs to be an integrated shipping and ports policy to build on this.”

He says that the Maritime Union is campaigning for changes to the Maritime Transport Act to promote New Zealand shipping and maritime jobs.

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