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Aucklander’s love to hate their port. The reason is that the wharves, silos and cranes that a working port needs sit on prime real estate and separate the people of Auckland from getting close to their beloved harbour.
Hours of talkback radio have been devoted to lambasting poor city planning and offering creative solutions to the waterfront access issue. Instead of mountains of containers we should have open spaces and views of the harbour, they cry.
The truth is that the land area of the port has reduced by nearly a half since 1996, despite the volume of cargo doubling, and Ports of Auckland are working hard to be good neighbours to the city on its door step.
One of the things that they’ve done is to give us a glimpse of how the port operates by offering a free boat tour that cruises alongside the container terminals and commercial wharves. Part of the tour is a commentary crammed with history and interesting port annecdotes.
You’ll learn that Ports of Auckland is the the largest container port in the country and handles more than 894 000 20- foot containers every year. It has 1800 power points to keep the refrigerated containers cold and there are more than 40 straddle cranes that are worth about $2 million each.
The port connects New Zealand with 165 ports in 69 countries and is the stop over for 90 cruise liners each year. (When the Queen Mary 2 was berthed in Auckland, Ports of Auckland put on a special tour to get up close and personal with this grand dame of the sea.)
The Port Tour heads into the harbour and under the Harbour Bridge where, if you’re lucky you’ll see a mad person dangling on a bungy cord metres above the water. On the return journey, the tour meanders past hundreds of sailing boats, super yachts and commercial fishing boats, and pokes its nose into the Viaduct Marina, home to Team NZ and host to the Volvo Ocean race in 2012 and the America’s Cup in 2000 and 2003. Further along the waterfront is Wynyard Quarter, formerly Ports of Auckland land and now home to apartments, restaurants, open spaces and interesting street sculpture. Anti-port talk back callers should be thrilled.
Ports of Auckland have won a Green Ribbon for environmental management which they are justifiably proud of. They’ve built a pohutakawa -lined walkway which hugs the shoreline and gives the public another view of port operations, and astounding photographic opportunities of the harbour.
For those without access to their own water transport, the Port Tour rare treat to see Auckland from an unusual perspective and on a sunny day it is hard to beat.
The tour lasts for an hour and is very popular so bookings are essential. You will find all the information that you need at http://www.poal.co.nz
The Ports of Auckland Port Tour is another of New Zealand's hidden gems found by The Local Tourist. You'll find more on her blog http://www.thelocaltouristnz.com