An industry-led approach to the rationalisation of ports in New Zealand, as recommended in a government-commissioned maritime freight report released today (Wednesday 13 October), is welcomed by the Employers and Manufacturers Association Northern Inc (EMA).
EMA welcomes the Minister of Transport’s response today to the report from the NZ Institute of Economic Research that the Ministry commissioned, says EMA chief executive Alasdair Thompson.
He says, “It would not be in New Zealand’s best interests for port companies in New Zealand to fail to rationalise if that resulted in New Zealand’s hub container port being in Australia.
“So yes, there are issues that need to be addressed.
“But we have some time on our side to achieve that rationalisation.But there is a risk in leaving it to our port companies to react to future decisions by shipping lines about where they call, as the necessary commercial decisions may not be easy to make for ports that are largely owned by councils, or in Auckland’s case where the port is wholly owned by the Auckland Council from 1st November.
“The current owner of the Ports of Auckland (POAL), which is the Auckland Regional Council (ARC), regards the POAL as an investment from which to receive dividends to fund the ARC. The majority of the newly elected Auckland councilors including the new mayor Len Brown, seem to think the same. They see no room for any private shareholding, which could release capital for investment in public transport.
“Nor was the ARC willing to consider rationalization when the Port of Tauranga and the POAL began discussing it some two to three years ago.
“Rationalisation could well see the likes of the Auckland Council having to stump up ratepayers money for development capital were it needed to meet the needs of becoming a hub port for the North Island if not for New Zealand.
“If central and local government part-privatized ports and other important public infrastructure, they would need to commit less ratepayer or taxpayer capital for the development or the rationalization of these assets, and the owners together could make sound commercial decisions about the future of the assets.
“Infrastructure like ports are necessary for a thriving economy and serve business most directly, and ratepayers less directly,” Mr Thompson says.