With a deep-water port and bigger scope for expansion, Northland is poised to handle more shipping containers than anywhere in the country in the next 30 years.
A technical study on freight demands of the three North Island ports of Whangarei, Auckland and Tauranga in the next three decades has signalled that Northland would pick up cargo from other bigger ports if they did not open up more of their waterfront.
However, economic growth, freight costs and limited storage facilities would inhibit Northport at Port Marsden unless significant investment was made to cater for the demand. While further infrastructure required resource consents, the study said there were fewer impediments to obtaining them at Northport than at the Ports of Auckland.
Also, Whangarei and Tauranga are not under the same land transport congestion pressures as the biggest city in New Zealand.
Most of the exports through Northport are wood products and fuel.
Further reclamation or use of adjacent land owned by Northland Port Corporation to increase storage at Northport was one of the options put forward as part of the study.
"Northport could establish a container terminal, and progressively take over all of POA's [Ports of Auckland] container operations. We are forecasting that Northport's trade task will grow by 33 per cent by 2041," the study says.
"To accommodate this growth with its current storage land, Northport would need to increase its storage [use] by the same amount. Alternatively, Northport has 14 hectares of land that is not currently in use that it could make available for storage.
"If it developed this land, Northport would not need to increase storage utilisation in order to accommodate our projected growth."
The Northland Regional Council and Whangarei District Council have indicated more investigative work was needed before future plans for expansion were hatched.
The regional council's growth infrastructure manager, Vaughan Cooper, and the district council's group manager district living, Paul Dell, recommended a joint workshop be held with the study's author PwC and all four Northland territorial authorities.
The workshop is to look at incremental development of infrastructure and capacity at Northport.
They noted that while the report touched on supply chains, it did not provide any detailed analysis into different options and potential costs.
Both councils will discuss findings of the new study in a joint meeting on December 6.