Napier Port hearings wrap up after two and a half days

By Laura Wiltshire

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Councillor Paul Bailey takes a break during the port hearings in Napier. Photo Warren Buckland
Councillor Paul Bailey takes a break during the port hearings in Napier. Photo Warren Buckland

Hawke's Bay Regional Council has heard everything from new ideas and vehement opposition to support for its proposed ownership option for Napier Port.

Hearings wrapped up yesterday after two and a half days, after about about 80 people had their say.

Submitter Gren Christie , who has 20 years' experience in the maritime industry, said all regional council had did with the consultation was create confusion.

"We've got people here who think the port belongs to Napier, so you haven't done your job."

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He said New Zealand had already been through privatisation and had seen the harm it does.

"We know it's been a bad thing for our country, but here we go again."

Submitter Anna Lorck said the review panel had ruled out an IPO (initial public offering), which is currently council's preferred option.

"That's what the panel members agreed too, that's what you recommended to council.

"You took nearly two years to come to the conclusion that an IPO was not the right option for the Napier Port."

Hawke's Bay Regional council chairman Rex Graham said while the review panel did suggest an IPO was not the right option, they were only one of the groups council had consulted with. For example, they also spoke to port workers and the union.

Lorck also said council did not have a mandate to sell 49 per cent of the port.

She said while some people supported an IPO, not everyone who voted for that option during written submissions supported selling 49 per cent.

"You need to provide the community with a clear analysis of just how many submitters, regardless of how those shares were sold, supported selling either down to 33, 49 or 45 per cent."

Graham said it was decided to sell part of the port, it was not set in stone that the sell down would be 49 per cent, as it was an issue council itself was divided on.

Another issue which was raised was whether Unison, which is owned by power users in Hawke's Bay, could become an investment partner, allowing the port to remain fully owned by residents in the region.

Former Unison board member John Palairet , who also submitted on Wednesday, said the port was not the type of company Unison would consider investing in.

"Unison's got a history of investing in complementary businesses.

"I think it is very unlikely they would be interested in investing in a company they know very little about."

Palairet, who has also served as the chairman of Hawke's Bay Airport, supported an IPO.

Grey Power Hastings spokesman Ronald Wilkins said its members supported option B, on the condition that shares remained in New Zealand.

He said Grey Power also wanted to ensure shares could be sold for $25 or $35, allowing people on lower incomes to invest in the port.

Another argument was that losing full control of the port would be detrimental to people who lived near the port and along the expressway, as council would lose the ability to mitigate noise problems from port traffic.

Ken Crispin from the Citizens Environmental Advocacy Centre said every time the port had been in trouble before it has gone to central government for help, and should do again.

As well as spoken submissions, council received over 3000 written submissions on the issue.

It is expected to make a decision on December 19.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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