Northport to file for growth consents but takes softly, softly approach to plans

Northport is to apply for resource consents it needs to expand the deepwater cargo gateway to the size its growth vision calls for.

The Marsden Point port, a joint venture between listed Port of Tauranga and Marsden Maritime Holdings, said it was to start formal consultation with the Northland community and other stakeholders as part of the consenting process.

The consents will provide for a new shipyard and floating drydock.

But the Northland port company has quashed suggestions expansion plans have been signed off by the board, and said it was too early to discuss the investment dollars proposed or how the expansion would be funded.

Chief executive Jon Moore in a written statement said no decision had been taken by the company to expand the port.

“Obtaining the consents we need for the future footprint is an important part of de-risking any potential future business plan.”

Northport was not planning for a relocation of Ports of Auckland operations to its site. The size for which the consent application would be sought did not allow for that.

“It’s a signal the company is serious about the prospects for growth at Northport but should not be taken as confirmation that any firm plans to build are at hand.”

The company first unveiled its growth vision in 2017.

While the vision – and consent application – provides for a new shipyard and floating drydock, the overall footprint size had not changed.

If built, the shipyard and drydock would be a “massive win” for Northland and its people, the statement said.

They would generate more than 400 unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled jobs at the facility and help to diversify the region’s economy.

The Defence Force drydock at Devonport, Auckland, is too small to handle modern ships.

The port company received close to $1 million of Provincial Growth funding to do a feasibility study on the concept. However, it did not receive the necessary development funding through the government’s shovel-ready projects agenda.

The Herald understands the projected cost was more than $210m. NZ First former Cabinet minister and Northland election hopeful Shane Jones, who has strongly championed the development of Northport, put the cost closer to $250m.

Moore’s statement said the port company was progressing the marine infrastructure concept despite missing out on the funding because it was convinced of its merits.

The proposed growth extends the port east and west, lengthening the linear berth to a maximum of 1390 metres and increasing total land area at the port to 75 hectares.

Expansion was essential if Northport was to meet future freight needs and support economic growth in both Northland and north Auckland.

Moore said the company would be out in the community over the next few months, further explaining its vision and what it hoped to do and why.

It had resumed its popular tours of the port for small groups and individuals.

Northport, owned and operated by the joint venture, last year handled 3.3m tonnes of bulk cargo, including 2.6m tonnes of log exports.

It handled 61 per cent more containers than in 2018 with 12,849 TEUs passing through the port.

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