A proposal to relocate Auckland's port to Northport on Whangārei Harbour is "the King Kong of infrastructure", says Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones, who today released a working group's second report on the project.
The independent Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy group, commissioned by the Government, has recommended the Ports of Auckland be closed in favour of a relocation to Northport at Marsden Point, at an estimated cost of around $10.3 billion.
"Look, it's the King Kong of infrastructure," Mr Jones told 1 NEWS this afternoon.
"People say the Government's not willing to take on infrastructure challenges. Up to $10 billion will be the overarching cost. It's difficult to think of a project of such epic proportions," he said.
"It's a positive report. It's got a lot of robust analysis behind it. And it fulfills a key component of the coalition agreement," he said.
New Zealand First wanted the port move as part of its coalition agreement with Labour.
Asked if he thinks the Government wants to tackle the project, Mr Jones, a New Zealand First MP, said, "Well our Labour colleagues backed it in the coalition agreement.
"I accept that this was an initiative brought forward by my leader, Winston Peters. When it goes to Cabinet that will be a coalition Government decision."
He said he thinks New Zealanders "genuinely want us to serve up transformational infrastructure projects".
Mr Jones said the port move is "a King Kong $10 billion transformational project that deals with logistics, supply challenges, future proofing our ability to export goods and services in a more robust and efficient manner is something that Kiwis should be calling for. And I'm sure lots of them will over time."
He said once the Government forms a position on the project, the $10 billion cost would be "a blend of both public capital and private capital".
Mr Jones said the project is "not for the faint hearted" and he criticised Auckland Major Phil Goff's comments on it.
"I have seen that Mayor Phil Goff has said that the Government's not confident. I don't know where Phil gets off talking for the Government. He should win the mayoralty. He has no right to talk for Winston Peters or our Prime Minister."
Mr Goff said in a statement the working group report does not sufficiently consider the costs and benefits to Auckland of relocating its waterfront port.
“Like most Aucklanders I am in favour of moving the port, but we won’t simply give away our assets built up by ratepayers over generations," he said.
“Relocation needs to be stack up economically and protect the interests of Aucklanders. It will also need to be undertaken with industry support and without imposing additional economic and environmental costs on Auckland businesses and consumers from freight being moved over much longer distances,” he said.
The report also recommends the Port of Tauranga continue to operate and a new freight hub be established in northwest Auckland.
The working group's final report is due in December.