Lyttelton Port of Christchurch

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Lyttelton Port of Christchurch, which is operated by Lyttelton Port Company, is a general cargo port as well as the largest coal export terminal in Lyttelton, New Zealand.


Lyttelton is a port town on the north shore of Lyttelton Harbour, at the northwestern end of Banks Peninsula and close to Christchurch, on the eastern coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

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Coal Exports

In the fiscal year ending June 2011, the company exported 2.1 million tonnes of coal.[1]

In 2012, Lyttelton Port Company’s website stated that it has been exporting coal from its stockyard in Te Awaparahi Bay since 1976. "Up to 2.5 million tonnes of coal can pass through our coal stockyard each year."[2] In September 2012, Lyttelton Port Company entered into a 15 year coal handling agreement with Solid Energy.[1] (In 2015, Solid Energy – the largest coal mining company in New Zealand – went into voluntary administration and was liquidated by 2018.[3]

The coal terminal handles coal transported from West Coast mines, including Solid Energy's Stockton mine.[4] Lyttelton’s stockpile can hold up to 335,000 tonnes of coal.[5]

Approximately 95% of the coal stored at the port is “coking coal.” The coal is shipped mostly to China, Japan, India, and Australia.[6]

Cashin Quay

The Cashin Quay includes the container terminal and coal loading facilities. ‘’’CASHIN QUAY 1’’’ (CQ1) is a 234 meter long wharf with a coal shiploader and conveyer system (up to 1,650 tonnes per hour).[7]

The 2014 Lyttelton Port Recovery Plan summarized the following:

“Cashin Quay was constructed in the late 1950s and became operational in 1964. From this time on it has been the principal cargo facility at the port, particularly with the arrival of containerised cargo in the 1970’s. In addition to container ships, Cashin Quay has also been used for general cargo, cruise ships and more recently for vehicle unloading. The easternmost berth (Cashin Quay No.1) is where coal ships berth. The coal conveyor loading system extends from the coal stockyard to this berth. The coal stockyard stores a range of coal grades mined on the West Coast and transported to Lyttelton by train. As the west coast mines do not have sufficiant stockpiling capacity, the continued operation of the Lyttelton coal stockyard is critical to their operations. If the coal stockyard and the ship loader was to cease operations, it is estimated the west coast mines would run out of stockpile capacity in 4-6 weeks and would then have to cease mining.”[8]

2010 earthquake

In its 2010/2011 annual report, the Lyttelton Port Company explained that a series of earthquakes had had a major impact on the port facilities:

"At the Port, the wharves moved seawards, and the seawalls and landward ends slumped. Piles, beams and tiebacks fractured, and paved container-handling areas suffered extensive damage. At Cashin Quay, the container cranes were jolted off their rails, and berth pockets in-filled. The breakwater at the seaward end slumped. On Z Berth, which was severely impacted, the foundations of the Independent Fisheries coolstore were destroyed. At CityDepot, paving cracked and buildings were structurally damaged. As a result of the massive damage, we face a recovery programme of probably four to five years, or longer."[1]

In late March 2012, the Lyttelton Port Company withdrew an application to expand its coal export terminal due to the need for repair work on existing facilities following major 2011 earthquakes. In April 2010, the company had applied to the Environment Court for 13 consent applications to reclaim 10 hectares of foreshore to enable it to expand its coal handling operations. The proposed expansion would have allowed exports of approximately 5 million tonnes per year. The Lyttelton Port Company stated that it was "looking at alternative ways within the existing port land to handle future growth".[9][10] The port expansion had been opposed by the NZ Greens and environmental groups.[11]

Despite the delay in the port expansion, Lyttelton Port Company was optimistic that coal volumes exported through the port would continue to expand. The company stated they "expect a continuation of this strong performance [a 5.2% increase in coal exports in 2011], with the signing in June 2011 of a cooperation agreement between Solid Energy and Bathurst Resources Ltd to export Bathurst’s Denniston coal through Lyttelton."[1]

Proposed coal expansion

A proposed NZ$25 million expansion to the port's coal handling facilities was postponed in early 2012 after the earthquakes shifted focus to post-earthquake rebuilding activities. These works included a ten-hectare reclamation to expand the existing coal stockyard. State-owned Solid Energy reported a 29% dip in revenue and a net after-tax loss of NZ$181.9 million in 2014, lessening the need for expansion.[12]

Te Awaparahi Bay reclamation project & new container terminal

In 2019, the first 10 hectares of the Te Awaparahi Bay reclamation project were completed. The second stage of the Port expansion, totaling 6 hectares, was expected to be completed by December 2020.[13] In October 2021, the Port was nearing completion of the first stage of an NZ$85 million expansion, which was being built on land that did not previously exist. The expansion was expected to be complete by mid-2023, and was expected to increase the Port’s total capacity from 500,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) annually to 620,000.[14] The Port has consenting rights for a further 18 hectares of land reclamation and two new cargo wharfs, which could take the annual TEU capacity to 1.2 million.[14]

Coal dust resource consent renewal

In 2021, the port was in the process of renewing its Coal Dust Resource Consent, which enables it to store and handle coal for export. Prior consent was granted in 1997 and was due to expire in 2022. The company submitted a renewal application in August 2021.[6][15]

Report & valuation

In 2021, an Auditor-General report warned stranded assets, underperforming capital, and low returns or asset writedowns could be ahead for port companies in the absence of a robust supply chain strategy for freight logistics. The report highlighted “Lyttelton Port Company illustrates the loss of shareholder value that can come from investing for growth that does not occur." NZ$290 million of assets were written down over the past five years at the Port, in part because the expected revenue associated with the investment did not eventuate. As noted above, Lyttelton had to rebuild its port after the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, and the rebuild led to a wider expansion project.[16]

In October 2021, the port – which is fully owned by the Christchurch City Council through an investment company ¬– confirmed a NZ$16 million profit for the financial year.[14]

Christchurch City’s 2020-2021 Annual Report valuation assumptions included an expectation of higher forecast TEU volumes and continuate of the coal trade. The forecast also included a significant upgrade of one Cashin Quay wharf at an estimated cost of NZ$350 million.[17]


In October 2014, Christchurch City Holdings Limited (the commercial arm of the Christchurch City Council) acquired 100% of the shares and delisted Lyttelton Port Company from the New Zealand Stock Exchange.[18]

Project Details

  • Operator: Lyttelton Port Company (owned by Christchurch City Holdings Limited)
  • Location: Canterbury Region, New Zealand
  • Capacity (Million tonnes per annum): 2.5
  • Proposed Capacity (Million tonnes per annum): 2.5
  • Status: Proposed expansion
  • Projected In Service: 2023
  • Type: Exports
  • Source of Coal: Te Awaparahi Bay, New Zealand
  • Cost of Expansion: NZ$85 million
  • Financing for Expansion:

Contact details


Articles and Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Lyttelton Port Company Annual Report 2011," Lyttelton Port Company, September 2011
  2. Lyttelton Port Company, "Coal," Lyttelton Port Company, accessed March 2012
  3. “Solid Energy,” Wikiwand, accessed October 2021
  4. "Stockton Opencast Mine," Solid Energy, accessed March 2012
  5. “Coal,” Lyttelton Port Company, accessed October 2021
  6. “Berths,” Lyttelton Port Company, accessed October 2021
  7. “Proposed Recovery Projects: Lyttelton Port Recovery Plan,” Appendix 2, Lyttelton Port of Christchurch, November 2014
  8. Lyttelton Port Company, "Withdrawal of Coal yard expansion resource consent application," Media Release, March 27, 2012
  9. Charley Mann, "Lyttelton Port pulls $25m plan," The Press, March 28, 2012
  10. Metiria Turei MP, "Lyttleton Port coal expansion proposal submission guide," New Zealand Greens, February 2010
  11. "Short term pain," Port Strategy, May 29, 2015
  12. “Annual Report 2020,” Lyttelton Port Company, 2020
  13. 14.0 14.1 14.2 “$85 million expansion for Lyttelton Port amid 'booming' local economy,” Stuff, October 10, 2021
  14. [ Annual Report 2021,”] Lyttelton Port Company, October 2021
  15. [ “Some ports need to reel in ambitions to better suit their pockets: Auditor-General's report,”] NZ Herald, June 23, 2021
  16. [ “Annual Report 2021,”] Christchurch City Holdings Limited, July 2020-2021
  17. “Port History,” Lyttelton Port Company, accessed October 2021

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