MHRS IN THE News

Auckland ferry plan floated

Date: 26/09/2014

Stuff - LAUREN PRIESTLEY 

Ferries might be the golden key to unlocking the Manukau Harbour. Auckland ferry giant SeaLink has just wrapped up an 18-month investigation into whether it could operate a service from Onehunga, to areas like Clarks Beach and Waiuku.

The proposal has given the push to open Onehunga Wharf up to the public a major boost.

Now it's up to Ports of Auckland to come to the party.

Manukau Harbour Restoration Society chairman Jim Jackson says public access would be a boost for the wharf. At present, the Ports of Auckland-owned wharf is closed to the public.

It is used for shipping container storage and as a base for the Sandford fishing fleet and Holcim Cement.

A lot can be done in a short space of time, Jackson said.

"Once you get out closer to the heads, it's certainly a part of Auckland that not many Aucklanders currently have the opportunity to have a look at.

"Look at Matiatia on Waiheke. When I was growing up back in the ‘50s it was pretty rudimentary. But just look at what has happened in that time," he said.

SeaLink managing director Todd Bolton says providing ferries from Onehunga Wharf is possible.

The company took over Pine Harbour Ferries in August and can now look at using those vessels in the Manukau Harbour, he said.

It stated this in a submission to the regional transport plan last year and the company has also made submissions on the unitary plan.

The company is now waiting on a sign of commitment from local government, Bolton said.

"We're thinking within the next couple of years. That may be a little bit ambitious but we're talking about the feasible future, we're not talking about 20 years away," Bolton said.

"We're quite motivated to see if those things can happen sooner rather than later."

Onehunga Business Association manager Amanda Kinzett says the proposal has the ability to make the wharf a real hot spot.

It could be developed to include fish markets and a buzzing nightlife scene - a huge improvement on the currently dilapidated and under-utilised area, she says.

"We've got a huge asset, the second largest harbour in Auckland," she said.

"There are so many things that can be added here that would add value. We need to bring the Manukau Harbour to where it should be."

Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board chairman Simon Randall says the board has raised the issue with the council arm that owns Ports of Auckland and has expressed an intention in its local board plan to get the public more access to the Manukau Harbour.

The Onehunga Foreshore Project, due to wrap up in July 2015, will bring people back to the Manukau Harbour for the "first time in a long time", Randall said.

Ports of Auckland infrastructure and property manager Alistair Kirk says a decision has not yet been made about the future of the Onehunga port.

The company evaluated the use of the port in 2013 and results were expected by the end of the year.

But Ports of Auckland is now declining to comment on the outcome of the evaluation, as it "involves other parties".

Kirk said the company is still open to discussions about the site.

- Central Leader