Northport container terminal expansion rejected

Plans for a major container terminal in Northland have suffered a blow with independent commissioners turning down an application for a multimillion-dollar port expansion.

Northport had applied to the Northland Regional and Whangārei District Councils for a raft of resource consents, including for an almost 12-hectare reclamation, a 250-metre wharf extension, and 1.7 million cubic metres of dredging.

In a newly released decision, the commissioners said a dedicated container terminal at Marsden Point, near Whangārei, would bring economic and social benefits.

However, they said the reclamation would have significant adverse effects on the cultural values of tāngata whenua, on recreation, and on public access to coast.

Northport said the decision was deeply disappointing for the company and its shareholders.

A spokesperson said the company was studying the 96-page decision and considering its options before making any further comment – including about whether it planned to appeal.

Northport is currently primarily a log handling port but its deep water access and room for expansion on land means it has potential to be developed into a major container port, taking pressure off the congested Ports of Auckland.

The proposed expansion would have increased Northport’s freight storage and handling capacity, and supported its transition to a high-density container terminal.

Northport’s application was heard during multiple sessions between October 2023 and last month by independent commissioners Greg Hill, Hugh Leersnyder and Jade Wikaira.

As well as the economic and social benefits to Northland, the commissioners said a dedicated container terminal at Whangārei could form an integral part of an efficient national network of safe ports.

However, the consents were refused due to the scale and extent of the proposed reclamation, because the effects of severing the physical relationship to the cultural landscape, the beach, the dunes and the takutai moana (marine and coastal area), would be “significant and irreversible”.

Those effects were not mitigated by Northport’s proposed conditions.

The commissioners also found the proposed conditions would not sufficiently maintain and enhance public access to the coast.

“We accept public access and recreational opportunities will still be provided. However, due to the scale and extent of the reclamation, and the extent of the loss of beach … we do not consider sufficient mitigation or offsetting for that loss has been provided,” the ruling stated.

The commissioners also considered economics, coastal processes, marine ecology, marine mammals, birdlife, terrestrial ecology, landscape, natural character, visual amenity, noise, navigation, traffic, stormwater and air quality.

They found the adverse effects on all those elements could have been avoided or mitigated, but, given that the resource consent applications were lodged as a “package deal”, all applications had been refused.

Northport, and any submitters who had not withdrawn from the process, had a right to appeal the decision within 15 working days.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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