Labour has endowed its junior partner with wads of cash and latitude to meddle but its grandiose plans to reshape North Island port and transport infrastructure smacks of nationalisation, National’s Judith Collins and Paul Goldsmith say.
“It beggars belief that Labour is playing along with NZ First’s scheme to divert shipping, freight and logistics to Northland, against the wishes of profitable port companies and their owners, with no economic rationale and at vast cost,” Infrastructure spokesperson Judith Collins says.
“Ports of Auckland facilitates 170,000 jobs in the Auckland region. If vehicle imports alone were moved to Northport it would result in an extra 19 million kilometres of road transport and $81 million in extra annual costs. Carbon emissions would jump by 22,500 tonnes.
“It must be awkward for Labour to see the Auckland Council under Mayor Phil Goff visibly squirming as this working group runs its ruler over the Council-owned Ports of Auckland without bothering to talk to the Council.
“Labour brought this on itself because not only did it give NZ First billions of dollars of loose cash to spend but also agreed to a feasibility study to move Ports of Auckland to Whangarei and a promise to spend some of the $3 billion Provincial Growth fund on regional rail.
“Stakeholders in ports and transport will be gobsmacked at this body of work. Sure there are questions about the future of some Auckland port activities but that should be based on economics not politics and owners of profitable businesses shouldn’t have the playing field changed from under them,” Ms Collins says.
“Auckland Council’s spending needs are huge and its debt lines are all but tapped out. It should be looking hard at its spending and its assets, including the port but seemingly Jones wants those decisions made in Wellington by politicians. In other countries, that is called nationalisation,” Transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.
“It’s clear this is a faulty process because Auckland councillors say they don’t trust Shane Jones’ working group and worry that they will lose control of one of Auckland’s key infrastructure assets.
“A massive amount of work towards developing a long-term plan for the port has already been done, and the working group’s willingness to dismiss this work has only fuelled this discontent. Mr Jones is damaging the relationship between Council and Government.
“This, sadly, is what we’ve come to expect from the clear politicisation of the Provincial Growth Fund by Shane Jones. He has defended the clear bias in funding so far to Northland with the line ‘to the victor goes the spoils’.
“New Zealand’s infrastructure is too important to be used as a political football. It should be geared toward economic growth and free from political meddling, as it would be under a National Government,” Mr Goldsmith says.