Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: A storm in any port

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  • James Littlewood*,

    the various ports are trying to cut each other's throats

    Exactly. The market model has been tested and shown wanting, yet again. This time, it's for something as seemingly purely commercial as shipping ports.

    Why can't Auckland let Whangarei or Tauranga or whoever wants to run its port do so, and pay a licence to Auckland in return for Auckland not running its own?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 217 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    What about all the stuff being trucked from Tauranga to and from Auckland?

    Port of Tauranga already own and operate MetroPort in South Auckland - it's linked directly via rail to Tauranga and operates as an "in-Auckland" port for both inbound and outbound (POAL has the same thing at Wiri). I've no idea as to the feasibility of scaling this approach up to take on some, if not all, of POAL's duties but it's already in place...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1722 posts Report Reply

  • Rickai,

    There is almost certainly some glide time happening at the port. I remember chatting to several workers at a POAL Americas Cup function a few years ago who laughed at how "we get paid for sitting around with our thumbs up our arses half the time". I'm not doubting the skills and experience needed to operate the machinery at the port, I just think that getting paid for, say, 40 hours a week, should involve actually working something near 40 hours. Also, IMHO, true casualisation to me means be called by your employer the night before and offered x number of hours for the next day. Or not, as the case may be. Being guaranteed 40 hours and having weeks, if not months, notice of shifts is not ideal, but hardly equates to the lot of your average KFC worker. Not that I was going to argue this when I ran past the picket line early Saturday morning!

    Since Jan 2007 • 37 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*,

    Here's an irrelevant but related joke: they turned the old customs house into a duty free store.

    Only, it's true. That's Auckland forya.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 217 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Martin,

    I still think Auckland should have a working port, especially if the alternative is yet more luxury apartments.

    A recent article in Salon...'That dock would make a great park. The water view is perfect for a new loft. Will gentrification kill shipping?'

    http://www.salon.com/2012/03/10/on_the_waterfront_the_battle_rages_on/singleton/

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 184 posts Report Reply

  • llew 40, in reply to James Littlewood*,

    Well .... I certainly don't know anywhere enough about exactly why the Ports finds itself in this position, but I would hesitate to argue that it proves the market model has been found wanting .... the market model seems to be working fine for Tauranga.

    Since May 2009 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    And I'm not being silly about this but I'm just aware that sometime the obvious answer (closest port) is not the best answer.

    I'd agree. The transportation cost might not be the biggest cost, not by a long shot. I don't actually know the answer, but the expensive real estate value of the Port of Auckland has to make the RoA suffer.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8737 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Gareth Ward,

    Those inland transfer ports mean the container wharf does not need to get larger to be able to handle more volume on and off ships. Storing containers and cars on prime waterfront land is ridiculous and wasteful.

    I've heard somewhere over the last month a suggestion to keep Tauranga as export-focused and shift Auckland/Marsden to mainly import-focused, with rail linking all of them together. Fixing up the rail link north is not cheap but it is certainly much more so than Joyce's silly holiday highway.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16996 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    And there's one aspect that's been seldom touched upon that also happens to be a well-worn busting tactic. The 19th-century American railways robber baron Jay Gould reputedly summed it up best: "I can always hire half the working class to kill the other half." Back in those days, such robber barons went as far as deliberately recruiting immigrants as strikebreakers, to foment the maximum possible discord.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4431 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Just got Hooton's “apology” from behind the NBR paywall. Final paragraph:

    Interestingly, my column attracted an overwhelmingly positive response. While words like “mafia-like” apparently risk misinterpretation, the fact is Aucklanders have very good reasons not to trust the council’s un-elected waterfront tsars with custodianship of their harbour, management of billions of dollars of ratepayer assets or even maintaining consistency between what they write in the small print of their plans with what they say when complaining to editors.

    When Hooton’s damning Rodney Hide’s Super City design as anti-democratic, you really do know there’s a problem.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The relationship between the Port and the Waterfront Auckland development CCO chaired by Bob Harvey would be interesting to hear more about as well.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16996 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    The relationship between the Port and the Waterfront Auckland development CCO chaired by Bob Harvey would be interesting to hear more about as well.

    Apparently Waterfront Auckland's major beef with Hooton's column was his scandalous assumption that they, y'know, worked together.

    Which, lest I too receive a letter from a QC, they do not. Because council organisations working together would be just totally wrong.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    From a TVNZ news story:

    Amid the talks came a claim by the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) that major shipping line Maersk will not be stopping at Ports of Auckland while industrial action continues.

    CTU president Helen Kelly said the ongoing employment dispute had become an international issue.

    “Maersk has advised today that they will not be carrying containers loaded out of Port of Auckland during the current industrial dispute,” she said.

    “It will stop calling at the Ports of Auckland until the dispute is resolved”.

    Kelly said Maersk management are planning to meet with members of the Maritime Union to discuss the dispute.

    However, Maersk said it was not aware where the CTU had received its information and was investigating.

    If this is true, I suspect it's something POAL management was not counting on. This is getting messy for them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to merc,

    not including Mr Joyce's proposed super heavy trucks.

    Gossip from the trucking industry has it that no-one is going to use the new super trucks, because the RUCs make them unprofitable. O.o

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2208 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Just been listening to Stephen Franks on the POAL dispute. He seems to regard the impending crushing of the union as a human rights victory on a par with the end of apartheid.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Luke Williamson, in reply to Sacha,

    Can we not use the term "Holiday Highway" please. Happy for the relative merits of roads versus rail versus roads somewhere else to be discussed but that term, coined by an Aucklander, is so patronising for Northlanders. The other day, someone from Whangarei described the proposed highway as Northland's lifeline. If Northland is not allowed a rail connection or a highway, then they are being consigned to years more of being an economic backwater.

    Warkworth • Since Oct 2007 • 273 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Luke Williamson,

    The other day, someone from Whangarei described the proposed highway as Northland’s lifeline. If Northland is not allowed a rail connection or a highway, then they are being consigned to years more of being an economic backwater.

    I confess, my view on the issue was refined somewhat by driving the present road both ways this past weekend. Yikes.

    To be fair, Josh Arbury (who I think coined the term) has also written about the specific safety improvements the road needs -- he just rejects the economic case for the big project.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Luke Williamson,

    We've discussed the Puhoi-Wellsford lunacy in depth before and I won't resile from ridiculing what seems to be more about faster access to Orewa holiday homes and expanding Auckland's development north in the interests of rapacious property developers than any rational influence on Northland's economy. Beefing up Northport and rail links on the other hand..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16996 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to nzlemming,

    because the RUCs make them unprofitable

    and what more reason for reducing those charges does the govt need?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16996 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Post at Te Standard picks up on the still-not-online SST story about whose rear the 12% target was plucked from.

    - The 12% that someone assured the council could be achieved was based purely on cherry picking from specialised ports that bear no relationship to the Ports of Auckland operations. Somehow I bet that all of the information about ports that weren’t property companies, coastal shipping ports, or in high volume sea lanes was discarded before anyone in the council saw it.

    - A more accurate comparison comparing like with like would have found that the Ports of Auckland was doing pretty well compared to its actual peers. Even in Hong Kong with one of the most heavily used ports areas in the world, and where Hutchinson seems to be largely based, the return on equity is about 7.7%, only slightly more than PoA’s 6+%.

    - But how was it that this report was being misused for analyzing what Ports of Auckland’s forward strategy?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16996 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Lordy, I appear to be almost agreeing with Hooten:

    The container terminal should be closed, the land developed and Marsden Point and Tauranga expanded, together with rail links to Auckland.

    The good news is that the Prime Minister now appears to be moving towards this position. See http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/news/nbpol/296948005-NZ-may-have-too-many-ports—Key

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16996 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*,

    the market model seems to be working fine for Tauranga

    Maybe. But aren't people getting injured - or worse - at that workplace?

    Also, I think Tauranga is a larger port with greater capacity. Lucky them. No Aucklander in its right mind wants our port extended, and Ak Council has recognised this.

    So, the market model that delivers success for one and not for (and at the expense of) the other would seem to me to be problematic.

    The whole thing's a shambles: sinking ships, striking workers, unsustainable pricing strategies: what's wrong with this that wouldn't be fixed by grouping all 7 NZ ports into one single state run monopoly?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 217 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Well if Mr Key says so, make it so - will never happen, what would we do with all those ex harbour tsars?
    It seems to me there is just too much power in the hands of a very few, and that is crushing us - /wind whistles, tumbleweeds flow/.

    what's wrong with this that wouldn't be fixed by grouping all 7 NZ ports into one single state run monopoly?

    Massive ideological hemorrhaging is all ;-)

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*,

    @merc Better than arterial hemmorhaging.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 217 posts Report Reply

  • llew 40, in reply to James Littlewood*,

    Don't disagree with some of your points at all James, but personally don't think that the 'market model' is the real culprit here. There are good examples of well-run privately owned infrastructure organisations (Ports of Tauranga, Auckland Airport), and examples of well run publicly owned infrastructure organisations (Mighty River Power, Wellington Airport). I'm just not convinced that the nature of the owner (i.e. public or private) is the primary factor in good or bad organisational performance.

    Since May 2009 • 9 posts Report Reply

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