As global supply chain pressures, rising shipping costs and geopolitical tensions mount, delays in the expansion of the Port of Tauranga’s capacity are set to exacerbate New Zealand’s supply chain woes.

A proposed container berth extension at the Port of Tauranga is now awaiting a resource consent hearing before the Environment Court after applications under the Covid-19 (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020 and inclusion in the Government’s shovel-ready infrastructure projects programme were declined. The $65.8m project has so far lost a year due to these delays.

The capacity of the port, which handles 42% of New Zealand’s container traffic, carries particular importance for the infrastructure sector as it faces rising costs and delays in sourcing building materials, due in part to global supply chain pressures.

The extension, if it is consented, will take up to two-and-a-half years to build and will allow for up to one million more containers to be handled each year, allowing for a decade or more of growth. At current growth rates, the port will likely run out of capacity in three years. With just a six-month buffer, the pressure will be on in coming months as the port challenges the Government’s decision to deny its applications.

In a broader sense, these delays reflect the importance of the resource management system reform currently underway. The more effectively the consenting process can be streamlined, and lead-times on large infrastructure projects can be dramatically reduced, the better.