Decision soon on Hicks Bay port proposal

Wednesday 1 Dec 2021

Decision expected this week on first new port in 100 years - A proposed new deepwater logging port is one of two East Cape projects vying this week for $45 million in government funding. The outcome could shape one of New Zealand’s most economically- deprived areas for the next 50 years.

The planned facility would take 10,000 logging truck trips off the road, put $22 million a year back into the local community and open up new economic opportunities in tourism, coastal shipping and more, according to Dave Fermah whose company Terrafermah leads the wharf project in conjunction with the Māori owners of the land on which the deepwater port will be sited.

“The East Cape area has large tracts of commercial forest reaching maturity, much of it on Māori land, but commercial viability has been hurt by high transportation costs. The port solves this by putting the logs directly onto ships at a direct annual saving of $14 million to the Māori land and forest owners, compared to the barging option,” says Mr Fermah.

In addition to local community gains, taxpayers win too, with savings of $165 million a year as a result of fewer trucks on the road, according to figures from an Opus Consulting report.

Mr Fermah’s project is up against a competing bid that proposes to barge logs to the Gisborne port from a site at Te Aroha just to the west of Hicks Bay. From the barge, logs would then be loaded onto ships.

But this double-handling comes at a significant cost, both economic and environmental, says Mr Fermah. “A barge decision could set the region and its vital forest industry back for 50 years,” he says.

“From a commercial point of view, barging adds costs and provides none of the long-term economic opportunities that a general-purpose deepwater port can open up in the region, he says.

The environmental harm from the barging operation, which seeks to dredge the foreshore and cut into a pristine beach has also led to widespread opposition and protests from the Te Aroha community who are calling for an end to the barging project.

“We need this port project for our communities,” says Allen Weanga who chairs the Potikirua Trust whose land has significant forests.

This week, ministers and Crown Infrastructure Partners will make its decision on which of the two competing bids will receive the $45 million in funding.

Proposed location

Further details

Opposition view

Sources: Scoop and RNZ

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