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An Open Letter to Auckland Mayor on future port reclamation

An Open Letter to Auckland Mayor Len Brown

Released by Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer

Monday, 23 March 2015

Dear Mr Mayor,

I am writing to encourage you to bring the issue of future port reclamation back to the Auckland Council table.

I have yet to change my vote. But like others I am calling for these matters to be formally revisited by the Governing Body in a calm and collected way with all the information new and old presented without fear or favour. Given the significant level of public interest, we at least owe that to Aucklanders.

Like other councillors, I always do my best to represent the public while balancing the economic interests of our city and region. And I thought I was doing the right thing by supporting tightening up the old reclamation rules, but it's clear that's still not going far enough to reflect the wishes of the wider Auckland community.

I supported tightening up the old reclamation rules that were in existence from 1987 to 2013. That's what I voted for, but if Aucklanders want no future reclamation whatsoever, then lets at least have the debate again, with the depth of public sentiment now clearly known.

There is a way via our meeting standing orders to revisit this, and I encourage you to explore that. This level of public feedback is effectively new information we didn't appreciate before it was rushed through in secrecy without public input.

I believe the position I supported was for stricter and more refined classification areas within the former Port Zone that was operating for 26 years until the council slapped on a Non-Compliance order against any future reclamation until such matters could be fully addressed through the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan process.

The impression I have been given is that the Independent Hearings Panel would take a very dim view on Auckland Council continuing with a Non-Compliant Activity classification and that we should mediate a compromise with the Ports Of Auckland. This I understood would mean tougher reclamation rules but not a blanket ban which we’ve been advised could be legal but an unprecedented regulatory environment for a working New Zealand port which are used to an element of discretion albeit inside a robust RMA framework.

I am asking you to convene a meeting of the Governing Body to reconsider our positon in mediation, as the public clearly does not want us to walk into mediation promoting a compromise. Rather they want us to champion a very clear public view from the outset.

It is then for the Unitary Plan’s Independent Hearings Panel, operating under statute and appointed by the Government, to make a formal recommendation back to us next year. If the council was to revise its mediation positon it would at least ensure any Unitary Plan decision could be made with the fullness of public opinion able to be formally considered as well as the plans and aspirations of the Ports Of Auckland Limited. As it stands the council’s compromised position does not accommodate public sentiment and hence nor can a formal and final decision.

Which leads me onto the inherent conflict we as councillors have around the Ports Of Auckland that the region owns 100%. These debates will always be hard as we balance growing our economic return on investment down there with our role to protect the beautiful Waitemata Harbour. A sell-down of the operating business, while retaining the underlying land in complete public ownership, would make Auckland Council’s role a lot clearer. This is yet another reason, why that debate needs to be had sooner rather than later.

I call on you Mr Mayor to please seriously reconsider another opportunity to enable all of us to reconsider the matters at hand and represent Aucklanders as best we can.

Kindest regards

Cameron Brewer
Auckland Councillor for Orakei

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