PROPOSALS to sell or lease the Port of Auckland have been terminated following the signing of a tripartite agreement between PoA, port owner Auckland City Council and the Maritime Union of New Zealand.

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown had floated a number of options for the port, aimed at improving the Council’s financial position, and practically all of which met with stern opposition from the maritime industry. These included the sale of a long-term lease of the port or parts thereof, with DP World frequently mentioned as an interested buyer.

On Tuesday [7 May] Mr Brown announced the new three-way agreement, “to make the most of Tāmaki Makaurau’s port and prime waterfront.

“Port of Auckland has agreed to deliver much improved profits to Auckland Council. And, we have agreed to take the proposed sale of a long-term port lease off the table,” Mr Brown said.

Under the new plan, Auckland’s port land, assets, and operations will be retained under council ownership.

Port of Auckland will contribute NZ$1.1 billion in profits to Auckland Council over the next 10 years, which exceeds the projected net returns from investing the proceeds of a port lease by $172 million.

The arrangement will be formalised by way of Port of Auckland’s annual statement of corporate intent and the council’s Long-term Plan (10-year Budget) 2024-34.

“This plan reflects my commitment to get better value and better returns from our strategic assets, and strengthen the council’s long-term financial position,” Mr Brown said. These higher returns will require increased port charges and improvements in productivity, and all parties are supportive of this.”

PoA chair Jan Dawson said the tripartite agreement brought parties together with a clear path forward. “The port company welcomes the Mayor’s plan, as it provides a clear direction and certainty for the port staff, our customers, and the community … together, we will continue to deliver for the people of Auckland.”

Auckland Council’s enhanced oversight of the port’s strategic direction and long-term planning, together with Port of Auckland’s High-Performance High-Engagement model, had contributed in part to the port company’s financial turnaround, Mayor Brown said.

“Upon entering into office, I immediately put pressure on all council-controlled organisations, and raised our expectations of Port of Auckland’s profits. To their credit, the board and CEO raised the Port’s performance and returns, and met our demands head-on,” he said. “We will work together to make the most of the port and the space it occupies.

“We’ve taken time to explore all options for the port, and test the market. It’s helped us understand what the opportunities are and what our expectations ought to be. Had the process been any less rigorous, and the debate any less robust, we may never have reached a consensus,” the mayor said.

Secretary of the Maritime Union of NZ, Grant Williams said the agreement acknowledges the importance of the port to Aucklanders. 

“The Mayor’s focus on the future of the port has highlighted its importance to the city, and brought us together around a common cause. We’re pleased to see that the value and contribution of port workers has been recognised by the Mayor, councillors, and the community”.

Auckland Council and Eke Panuku have developed a Framework Plan for the central wharves to make better use of prime waterfront space.

PoA said it supports the mayor’s proposal to return Captain Cook Wharf and Marsden Wharf to Auckland Council, which will have no impact on the port company’s profitability in the short-term. The mayor has also negotiated public access to parts of Bledisloe Wharf, as a shared space for public use and cruise.

The mayor’s long-term plan also makes progress on the vision and longer-term planning for the Port and waterfront. A process to consider the appropriate commercial model for port ownership in the Upper North Island will continue. Auckland Council has secured a firm commitment from PoA that its current infrastructure plans complete the port for the future.