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Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown has proposed to lease operations at the Ports of Auckland for the next 35 years which some South Auckland leaders say could be an unsafe move.

Photo / RNZ


Concern for workers’ livelihoods over Ports of Auckland deal

Some South Auckland local boards are concerned that Mayor Wayne Brown's proposed 35-year lease on the Ports of Auckland will have negative impact on the port's majority Pacific and Māori workforce.

Alka Prasad
03 April 2024, 3:50pm
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A plan to lease operations at the Ports of Auckland has raised concerns it will put the livelihoods of workers at stake.

Under the proposal, Mayor Wayne Brown wants to lease out operations at Port of Auckland for 35 years to raise funds for the city, while council retains ownership of the land.

Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board chair Apulu Reece Autagavaia said the plan, which is under consultation with council, would be unsafe for local workers.

"We should be cautious about privatising another asset, even if it's only for the [port’s] operations,” Autagavaia says.

“A lot of our community are employed through the ports so their livelihoods will be at stake should there be a privatisation of the operations,” Autagavaia says.

“If we're to privatise it, then we need to protect the livelihoods of the people that are employed there.”


Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board chair Apulu Reece Autagavaia says privatising port operations means privatising yet another key Auckland asset.

The move comes after successive councils have made drastic decisions to privatise other services previously provided by Auckland Council, including the sale of council-owned shares of Auckland Airport, Autagavaia says.

“Once public ownership is lost, there's always a possibility that overseas ownership can provide their own directions for these public institutions that we depend on.

“I would personally have a preference that it remains in the hands of New Zealand ownership where obviously the profits are distributed within New Zealand."

He said a loss of New Zealand ownership could also introduce more injuries and fatalities for port workers if the right health and safety measures weren’t in place, Bakulich says.

“We want to look after the workers who are obviously the most important assets of the Ports of Auckland.”

Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board chair Tauanu’u Nanai Nick Bakulich says the board's preference is to keep operations in Kiwi hands.

In a statement released last week, Auckland Council said it had received “broad support” for the ports proposal, including from the Employers and Manufacturers Association, Ngāti Tamaterā, Te Kotahi a Tāmaki, and the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance.

“I want Auckland to have the most beloved waterfront of any harbour city in the world that is both physically and financially resilient," Brown said in a statement.

"It’s about what makes sense for Auckland, ideologies aside.”

A Ports of Auckland spokesperson said the decision to lease the port was "one for our owner, Auckland Council".

"We remain focused on running a safe and efficient operation that support Auckland’s economy."

Port workers heading back to work after protesting the 35-year lease proposal last week.

The port has done a lot to improve safety at the port over the past few years, the spokesperson said.

"We couldn’t speculate on what any other potential operator may do."

Ports of Auckland submitted feedback for Auckland Council's long-term plan (LTP) stating that the health and safety of port workers is a major concern.

Approximately 780 people are employed by the ports, with a large majority based in South and West Auckland.

The group's LTP submission goes on to say that current operations deliver strong financial results to Auckland Council.

"Every single dollar of Port of Auckland’s dividend goes to funding Auckland Council. We are making solid progress in improving profitability of the port, towards a fair return for our council owner."

Last week, Ports of Auckland workers gathered outside the Auckland Town Hall to oppose the ports being leased out by the council.

Workers at the port and the Maritime Union "strongly oppose" the proposal as it would hand a key asset of the city over to a private monopoly, Grant Williams, from the Maritime Union, said.

"It would come at a great cost to Aucklanders," Williams said.

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