Northport Container Terminal Expansion Rejected

Northport Container Terminal Expansion Rejected

Northport Harbor

Independent commissioners have rejected plans for a major expansion of Northport, located near Whangarei at Marsden Point.
Photo: Provided

Plans for a major container terminal in Northland have been dealt a blow after independent commissioners rejected a multi-million dollar port expansion application.

Northport had lodged a series of resource use permits with the Northland and Whangarei District Councils, including for a reclamation of nearly 12 hectares, a 250-metre wharf extension and 1.7 million cubic metres of dredging.

In a recently released decision, 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 negative impacts on tāngata whenua’s cultural values, recreation and public access to the coast.

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

A spokesperson said the company was studying the 96-page ruling and considering its options before making further comments – including whether it would appeal.

Northport is currently primarily a log handling port, but its deep water access and scope to expand on land mean it has the potential to become a major container port, easing pressure on Auckland’s congested ports.

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

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

In addition to the economic and social benefits for Northland, commissioners said a dedicated container terminal in Whangarei could form an integral part of an efficient national network of safe ports.

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

These effects were not mitigated by the conditions proposed by Northport.

The Commissioners also considered that the proposed conditions would not adequately maintain and improve public access to the coast.

“We accept that public access and recreational opportunities are still provided. However, due to the scale and extent of the reclamation and the extent of the beach loss… we do not consider that sufficient mitigation or compensation has been provided for this loss,” the decision said.

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

They considered that the negative impacts on all of these elements could have been avoided or mitigated, but because the resource consent applications were submitted as a “package”, all applications were refused.

Northport and all bidders who did not withdraw from the process had the right to appeal the decision within 15 business days.