Northport expansion declined by independent commissioners

10 Jul 2024, 8:04 AM

Independent commissioners have declined an application for a multimillion dollar expansion of Northport due to the scale and extent of a 11.7 hectare reclamation currently proposed.

Applicant Northport had applied to the Northland Regional and Whangarei District Councils in late 2022 for a raft of resource consents needed for the project which would have increased its freight storage and handling capacity and supported its transition into a high-density container terminal.

The application was heard over multiple hearing sessions between October 2023 and last month and in their recently released decision independent commissioners Greg Hill (Chair), Hugh Leersnyder and Jade Wikaira refused all of the consents sought.

The proposed expansion called for approximately 11.7 hectares of reclamation and associated coastal structures for a 250-metre wharf extension at Marsden Pt. It would also have involved 1.72 million cubic metres of capital dredging and associated disposal and ongoing maintenance dredging.

In their decisions, the commissioners accepted that had they granted consent there would have been a range of significant positive effects.

“These include a range of economic and social benefits associated with a dedicated container terminal at Whangārei, which would be part of an integral and efficient national network of safe ports.”

However, the commissioners said they had refused consent due to the scale and extent of the proposed reclamation as it currently stood.

“The reasons for this are the significant adverse effects on cultural values of tāngata whenua and on the loss of recreational values and public access to and along the coastal marine area (CMA).”

“We find that the adverse effects of the reclamation’s scale and extent, which results in the severance of the physical relationship to this cultural landscape, the beach, the dunes and the takutai moana (marine and coastal area), are significant and irreversible.”

Those effects were not mitigated by the applicant’s proposed conditions.

Similarly, the commissioners found granting the consents sought would not sufficiently maintain and enhance public access to and along the CMA.

“We accept public access and recreational opportunities will still be provided.” “However, due to the scale and extent of the reclamation, and the extent of the loss of beach (and its associated values), we do not consider sufficient mitigation or offsetting for that loss has been provided to address the significant residual adverse effects of the loss of recreational values and public access to and along the CMA.”

The commissioners noted both the cultural values and access issues were of “national importance” under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

As part of their deliberations, the commissioners considered a raft of other matters including economics, coastal processes, marine ecology, marine mammals, avifauna, terrestrial ecology, landscape, natural character, visual amenity, noise, navigation, traffic, stormwater and air quality.

The adverse effects of all of those could have been avoided or appropriately mitigated (or offset), however, “given the applications were lodged as a ‘package deal’ we have refused all of the applications applied for”.

Northport – and any person that lodged a submission on the consent application and didn’t withdraw their submission during the consent process – now has the right to appeal the decision within 15 working days of receiving notice of the decision.

The decision is available online at: