Moving Auckland port impractical, says National Road Carriers

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJune 30, 2020

Moving Auckland‘s port to Northport would be logistically impractical, prohibitively expensive, increase greenhouse gas emissions and add to traffic congestion, according to a report commissioned by the National Road Carriers Association.

The report, based on interviews with trucking companies and stakeholders, concludes Ports of Auckland should continue in its current location until it can‘t efficiently handle further growth.

With a focus on road freight, the report concludes the issue was not port location, but the efficiency and safety of road (and rail) access to the three existing upper North Island ports – Auckland, Tauranga and Northport.

NRC chief executive David Aitken says Auckland road freight operators interviewed for the report, Moving the Ports of Auckland: Costs and challenges for road freight, estimated the proposed replacement of Ports of Auckland with Northport could provide at least a five-fold increase in business for them, but they are strongly against the idea because it does not make sense. 

In summary, the report found:

  • Ports of Auckland handles about one-third of the nation‘s container trade and two million tonnes of general cargo, 70% by value of this trade is either for or from Auckland.

  • About 340,000 heavy truck trips and 27,000 freight trains would be needed to carry the containers and goods from Northport to the proposed inland road-rail port at Swanson in West Auckland.

  • Moving Ports of Auckland to Northport would be extremely energy inefficient. It would add more than 125,000 tonnes of CO2 per year for container road freight. Currently, about 27,000 tonnes of CO2 per year are emitted transporting containers by road from Ports of Auckland to South Auckland.

  • However, as New Zealand eventually moves away from fossil fuels to electric or hydrogen-powered transport it is setting itself up to have to build more expensive power stations (which will also be hard to consent) – totally not sustainable.

  • Heavy truck traffic across metropolitan Auckland would increase, particularly on roads around the proposed Swanson road-rail inland port and across the city towards South Auckland where most customers were located.

  • With Auckland‘s business growth moving south, and Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty dominating the Upper North Island‘s economic growth, Northport was too far away.

The full report can be viewed at

The most cost and energy efficient freight is delivered by sea as close as possible to its market. The annual cost of road and rail freighting goods 160km between Northport and Auckland would increase by more than $1 billion. With the upper North Island‘s three ports (Auckland, Tauranga and Northport) having limited access and capacity, in a 100-year time frame a super port on the Firth of Thames (or Manukau) could be assessed, the NRC says.

The NRC report says a wider study than just looking at Northport is required to look at long-term business needs, 30-, 50- and 100-year trends – including distance from customers, cost and scale. The question of port location should hinge on the ability to handle growth and whether the port‘s location helps achieve the Upper North Island‘s full economic, social and environmental potential.