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CBAFF asks Auckland Council to intervene in port dispute

11 January 2012

CBAFF president calls for Auckland City Council to intervene in port dispute

Auckland City Council needs to step in and resolve the ongoing problems at Ports of Auckland – or sell the port to someone who can says Willie van Heusden, President of the Customs Brokers & Freight Forwarders Federation of New Zealand.

“It’s all very well for Super City Mayor Len Brown to go on record saying he supports both sides in the current industrial dispute,” said Mr van Heusden.

“But his council owns 100 per cent of the port company and the dispute has highlighted fundamental problems. It’s time for the council to either step in and sort this mess out, look at a public private partnership or sell the port to someone who will run it properly.”

Mr van Heusden said the current dispute, with many container ships being diverted to Tauranga, is fundamentally hurting New Zealand’s already fragile supply chain.

“It’s also time to stop talking around political ideology and for the union to recognise that modern ports have to adopt flexible business practices, including a flexible workforce,” he said.

“The real losers in this are the Auckland ratepayers and the New Zealand supply chain. Importers are hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

“We are in a global downturn, the shipping industry internationally is facing huge difficulties, supply chains are getting stretched, are more complicated and businesses need reliability and consistency. NZ is already vulnerable both geographically and due to its size. The infrastructure round our ports is also weak. The hard fact is that we can’t afford disruption like this.”

Mr van Heusden said that New Zealand’s geographical limitations make it essential that we have a have a strong functioning port in Auckland.”

“Auckland port has given up substantial tracts of land to allow public access to the waterfront and has worked hard to make the most of the limited land it has,” he said.

“But, if you sacrifice the land, the offset needs to be increased productivity and efficient rail and road links to the port to service the greater Auckland area.

“If Mr Brown wants to keep ratepayer’s contributions down and pay for improvements to infrastructure then Ports of Auckland needs to be a fully functioning asset and one that returns more than a paltry 6.1 per cent on a capital of $400m.

“Port of Tauranga has developed good rail, road and land links and has very good working practices. The council could follow their example for the benefit of the Auckland region.”

Mr van Heusden said that the industrial action to date was estimated to have resulted in vessels carrying around 25,000 containers being diverted, bypassed Auckland or delayed – and then needing to be trucked or railed longer distances to their final delivery address.

ENDS

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