This photo was taken yesterday as the sun came up from Mt Victoria. (Click photos in this posting to see them in high resolution). Devonport, with its coastal pohutukawa fringe, is in the foreground. Directly across the Harbour is the Ferguson terminal - still being reclaimed out to the consented edge - and further into the harbour the Bledisloe terminal is visible. The northern sides of both of these reclamations is currently rock. But that is not POAL's final plan.
This diagram is from POAL's 2008 Plan. Variants of it have been presented to the Unitary Plan hearings panel by POAL representatives. These show cranes on the northern sides of the reclamations - in the case of Bledisloe about 200 metres further north into Waitamata Harbour and assume substantial further reclamation. Heart of the City submissions and Devonport Heritage submissions raise issues about the continuing industrialisation of the port, and the clash that is growing between trhe users of the Harbour, and those who have lived on the Harbour - peacefully - for more than a hundred years. However Port plans go further.
This diagram is also drawn from POAL's 2008 Plan, and is entitled: "Ultimate Port layout". This envisages that the basin that currently provides some natural variation in the current layout, would be entirely reclaimed. At yesterday's hearing evidence was presented indicating that POAL is still intent on reclaiming a large part of this central basin area. Submitters expressed concern that POAL's main interest appeared to be creating more land. The Parnell submissions expressed concern that views out over the harbour would change without the variety and diversity that is afforded by the current POAL layout.A number of submitters questioned the need for more land - given that stacked parking is used in many ports and that it is inefficient to be storing so many containers at any one time on land. Other submitters raised concerns about the increasing "industrialisation" of the port - mentioning the number of cement facilities that are now being established on the land - and that are apparently consented without notification.
The variety and diversity of POAL plans was also noted by submitters. Many questioned the credibility of the plans. Heart of the City suggested that if POAL was genuinely worried about being able to berth longer ships, all it needed to do was to complete the removal of Marsden Wharf - giving it the whole length of the existing Bledisloe Wharf. Heart of the City's Greg McKeown has done a lot of work exploring options for providing berth space, and these include the option of declaiming part of the existing Jellicoe reclamation, so that the Eastern edge of the Bledisloe terminal could also be lengthened.
While these options may have been explored by POAL, they do not appear to have been top of its list.
Sitting there listening I felt it was a weighty load to place on the shoulders of the Unitary Plan Commissioners. Their job appears confined to fine-tuning environmental effects based planning controls that are consistent with the purpose of the Resource Management Act. Submitters are seeking certainty and want hard and clear lines in the sand. POAL is doing whatever it can to provide itself with future wriggle room. Every one on the hearings room seems to be keenly aware of that. I think that given the scale of the debate that is occurring nationally and regionally about ports and about supply chain logistics, and where communities are no longer prepared to accept incremental creep into public amenity, then it would be rational for this PAUP process to kick for touch pending a necessary political decision - or be the meat in the sandwich.
I do think that Auckland Council has intervened in the process usefully. After its backward step in resetting the activity status of further port reclamations from "non-complying" to "discretionary", it has reset the activity status of wharf extensions like B2 and B3 from "permitted" to "discretionary" outside the basin and "restricted discretionary" inside the basin, and it has decided there needs to be a protected view corridor from the end of Queens Wharf. While these are positions for mediation, and are not in the proposed plan, they do represent a significant and important shift on the part of Auckland Council.
Now to the final part of this posting. The New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS) includes as a key policy objective the restoration of coastlines. This includes the new coastal edges that POAL has created as it has reclaimed (taken) seabed and redrawn the Waitemata Harbour coastline. Interestingly, when the Judges Bay residents challenged POAL over its plans to extend the Ferguson reclamation it won a very important concession from POAL in the environment court. That was that the eastern edge of the Ferguson reclamation would be established as a coastal walkway, that would be planted, with viewing areas out to the end of that reclamation. As far as I am aware the walkway is in place - but how attractive it is and how popular it is I am unaware. The picture at the top of this posting suggests that no planting has taken place.
Now that POAL is being forced to face the fact that it can take no more land from the Harbour, it must be encouraged to take its responsibilities under the NZCPS more seriously. It needs to restore particular edges of its reclamation. It cannot presume to build a bald patch of tarmac totally edged with cranes and berthed shipping. It needs to do what it can to integrate with what is there now, including its basin, and it needs to soften its edges. As these photoshopped images suggest. (Click it to see a much larger image.)