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The Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy working group recommends the managed closure of Ports of Auckland’s freight operations, the development of Northport (pictured), and the continued operation and planned development of Port of Tauranga

Second report released for Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy

The Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy working group that is undertaking a comprehensive review of New Zealand’s freight and logistics sector for the upper North Island has released its second interim report that provides some options and analysis.


The independent working group’s review of the upper North Island freight sector will guide the development and delivery of a strategy for the region to ensure the supply chain is fit for purpose in the long term. Chaired by Wayne Brown, the group comprises those with expertise in economic and business development, regional development, transport and logistics, infrastructure management, investment and planning.

The working group’s first interim report presented the progress made in the first stage of their work and included a number of site visits, including visits to Northport and Ports of Auckland, supported by stakeholder engagement and initial analysis and advice, to gain an understanding of the current system. The group have since also visited Port of Tauranga and met with a number of other stakeholders.

A number of key themes emerged during the discovery phase, including: inefficiencies of the network, encompassing rail, road, ports, inland ports and freight hubs; complex and inefficient owner relations between the ports, network infrastructure and assets; the importance of social licence and working within the communities that the network is there to serve, particularly in Auckland, but also in Tauranga; infrastructure investment by different parties and their rationales; and the wider context within which the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy is being conducted, with a particular emphasis on optimal land use.

Their second report, released in October, builds on the group’s interim thinking and provides a strategic investigation of the Upper North Island Supply Chain. Work has focused on determining the possible options that different stakeholders have using a strategic approach to analyse whole-system performance, and a preferred option has been identified.

Strategic principles

“We have built on the key themes that emerged in our discovery phase to develop a range of strategic principles to assist in the evaluation of options for a future supply chain,” the working group’s second report says.

These themes include: a future supply chain that allows the costs of moving freight to be kept as low as possible; the current level of competition in the supply chain, particularly in relation to the number of ports, is critical for success; infrastructure that limits the degree to which freight activity impinges on public areas, particularly in congested areas, should be favoured – freight modes such as rail and coastal shipping should be favoured where possible; the supply chain must be resilient and have the ability to continue moving freight in the event of a natural disaster – as a minimum, a two-port system is needed for the upper North Island; and there should be a focus on road safety, reducing CO2 emissions, and economic development of the regions, particularly Northland, to meet overall government objectives.

Preferred option

Several strategic scenarios and options were considered, including maintaining the current status quo (whereby the upper North Island is serviced by Port of Tauranga and Ports of Auckland, and Northport to a lesser extent), with one option being preferred.

This is the managed closure of Ports of Auckland’s freight operations, the development of Northport up to the capacity equivalent of Ports of Auckland (including appropriate levels of landside infrastructure and capacity to grow as levels of freight increase) and the continued operation and planned development of Port of Tauranga. 

This scenario also includes development of land-side infrastructure consisting of a rejuvenated North Auckland rail line and spur to Northport, and a new inland freight hub in the northwest of Auckland that complements MetroPort in south Auckland.

Numerous benefits

The working group provide a number of reasons why this is their preferred option. 

It promotes resilience in the supply chain by providing two distinct north and south entry points for international freight originating in and destined for Auckland. 

It reduces levels of friction in the Auckland CBD which is currently a congested entry point for freight out of Ports of Auckland and provides two alternative entry points into the city. Friction with urban personal transport and regional deliveries could be further reduced by a dedicated freight rail line through the Avondale corridor connecting the two main freight hubs. 

It allows for alternative use of the Auckland waterfront land, and returns the harbour to the people, which helps Auckland to achieve its ambition of becoming a more ‘liveable city’.

It potentially improves road safety by increasing rail freight capacity. It promotes opportunities for regional development and employment in Northland, and supports further growth in the Bay of Plenty. 

It maximises the use of the existing port system and the availability of surrounding land at Northport, noting potential alignment with other strategic projects such as a new drydock and rail staging for the NZ refinery in west Auckland. It also maintains levels of competition in the Upper North Island Supply Chain, and fosters innovation and cost-effectiveness and efficiency of freight delivery. 

Next steps

The working group will now move into the final stage of their work where they will consider how to transition from the current state to the preferred option. A final report is due to be delivered before the end of the year which will include the group’s recommended strategy to achieve the preferred solution.

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