Weekend Sun column
This week it was great to join the hundreds of people who crowded around the base track of the Mount to welcome the biggest container ship to ever dock at Tauranga Harbour.
It's a major milestone for Tauranga following the Port's recently completed $350 million infrastructure upgrade. These upgrades have clearly already paid off, by providing the opportunity for larger ships like the Aotea Maersk to visit our shores.
To give some perspective to its size, the container ship is longer than the 345 metre Sky Tower, measuring an impressive 347 metres. The 9500 twenty-foot equivalent units vessel offers exporters significant efficiency and environmental benefits.
The Aotea Maersk can carry almost twice as much cargo as any other container ship that has previously docked in New Zealand, which will allow us to become a more efficient export nation. Such large ships are a potential game changer for our region's businesses that are looking to export, allowing us to compete with countries that have big ships on their main trade routes.
It will serve a new line between China, New Zealand and Chile, opening up new economic opportunities in Latin America. It will also offer a fast weekly direct service to important markets including China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
The Government's Roads of National Significance programme is strengthening the key strategic routes that will be used to transport freight to and from ports handling these megaships. As witnessed by the Aotea Maersk's arrival, the Port of Tauranga is set to benefit from these improvements significantly.
We also continue to invest heavily in the rail network with more than $4.2 billion spent in rail since coming into government. This foresight means our land transport network, including the ‘golden triangle' between Tauranga, Waikato and Auckland, will be able to more effectively and safely manage the freight these massive ships will carry.
It's great to see how improved infrastructure is transforming our region's economy for the better. I look forward to seeing more business growth as a result of the Port's new capacity for larger ships.