Carrying on my recent obsession with seaports and their future for New Zealand, last week I sent a letter to the editor of the Upper Hutt Leader on CentrePort's expansion. I was responding to an earlier letter raising environmental concerns about the expansion:
CentrePort's response in last week's Leader was intriguing in its lack of justification for the dredging of Wellington Harbour. As well as the environmental concerns, ratepayers - as owners of CentrePort - should be concerned.CentrePort have a website explaining what they're planning on doing in Wellington's Harbour, appropriately called "The Big Picture". But there's nothing in The Big Picture that addresses the underlying message of the Ministry of Transport's future scenarios for container ports: there will be fewer ports visited by these mega ships, with smaller container ports relegated to "feeder" status. That includes CentrePort.
A recent Ministry of Transport report on the future of New Zealand's ports put forward a scenario where larger and larger container ships soon to be calling on New Zealand ports lead to fewer, bigger ports. CentrePort features in not one of the reports potential options, instead being relegated to a "feeder" port to the others.
Meanwhile, two of the "hub" ports the report identifies are moving in on CentrePort's business. Ports of Auckland and Port of Napier are opening a new logistics hub in Longburn, south of Palmerston North. They plan to rail containers there to their own ports, in direct competition with CentrePort's services.
If the Ministry of Transport's report comes to pass, we could end up with an environmentally degraded harbour that is bypassed by the major shipping lines. CentrePort needs to make its case clearly for the dredging to ratepayers.