New Zealand

Ports of Auckland must remain in public hands - union

October 2, 2022
The Ports of Auckland.

Candidates for Auckland Council should be clear about their views on privatisation of Ports of Auckland, a union says.

Mismanagement of the ports, a bleak safety record and logistics bottlenecks have focused attention on debate about the ports' future during campaigning for the Auckland mayoralty race.

But the Maritime Union, which has been heavily involved in scrutinising problems at the facility, said the ports must stay fully owned by the council for the good of Aucklanders.

It said those voting in local elections deserve a clear picture of candidates' intentions for the future of the business - including their position on exploring privatisation or part-privatisation of the ports - which it said had not been made clear at campaign debates.

The union's national secretary Craig Harrison said the ports were key infrastructure and crucial to Auckland's economy, and so must remain a public asset.

When managed correctly, they could bring in $60 million annually to ratepayers, he said, and a new management and governance team installed after a top-down "clean out" deserved to be able to focus on business without more distractions.

An independent review requested by mayor Phil Goff and released late last month found management and governance problems were among the reasons for the failure of the ports' multi-million unsuccessful attempt at automation.

Last year another independent review found systemic problems with health and safety, risk management and culture at the business.

And the death of the fourth worker killed on the job at Ports of Auckland facilities since 2017 renewed calls for safety improvements.

In August, the ports posted a loss of $10.3 million for the year to June, after the $63.1m write-off of costs from its failed automation programme. It made $45.6m for the year to June 2021.

However: "There is now a more positive relationship between the union workforce and new management and this is already having benefits, for example in the stronger focus on health and safety," Harrison said.

Privatisation was not the answer to the previous problems, and those who wanted it were in the minority, he believed.

"This has come up time and time again over the years, and I think the clarity needs to come from all the candidates on where they see the port, and I think understanding the debate and where the port is in regards to the freight movement in and out of Auckland."

A wider freight strategy was needed for all New Zealand ports, he said, particularly those in the North Island, because of ongoing issues with volatility in supply chains.

Voting for local body elections closes on 8 October, nationwide.


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