Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Auckland one Cup short of a party

Minor detail of winning aside, revamped waterfront has everything needed for hosting a world-class defence

The millions poured into the Viaduct Basin and the Wynyard Quarter since the 2000 cup mean the area has everything needed, except syndicate bases for hosting a Cup defence.
The millions poured into the Viaduct Basin and the Wynyard Quarter since the 2000 cup mean the area has everything needed, except syndicate bases for hosting a Cup defence.

Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton naturally enough says he has better things to do at the moment than speculate on where a victorious Kiwi team might defend the America's Cup next time around. But that hasn't stopped the armchair experts dusting down old hobby-horses like closing off Quay St to vehicular traffic - except, of course, for that other hobby-horse, the vintage tramcars that they want to become the waterfront conveyance of choice.

You'll have noticed that, like them, I'm automatically assuming that once the Cup is safely back in its rightful home at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron's Westhaven base, the subsequent defence will take place in home waters. With more than $120 million of ratepayers' money spent creating the Viaduct Basin America's Cup Village before the 2000 defence, where else in New Zealand would it be held but on the Waitemata?

As for an overseas venue, a publicity boss for the Dubai-based airline Emirates, Team New Zealand's long-standing anchor sponsor, did cause a flurry back in 2007 by declaring Emirates and the Dubai authorities would like Team New Zealand to host a defence in the Gulf.

But Dalton quickly squashed that idea, saying pre-match racing in Dubai was a possibility, but as for the actual Cup contest, "I hope the New Zealand public know me a bit better than that by now - it'd always go to New Zealand".

Locking that into place was Prime Minister Helen Clark, who pointed out the Government had invested $34 million in Team New Zealand, then competing in Spain, and "there's a very clear understanding from the Government, and we were far-sighted enough to write it into the contract with Team New Zealand, that should we win the Cup, it goes back to New Zealand for the defence".

For Auckland ratepayers, the good news is the infrastructure is already in place for a world-class event. The transformation of this rundown industrial area started with the $120 million invested around the Viaduct Basin in the lead-up to the 2000 Cup event. Since then, the $32 million events centre has been opened, and another $120 million spent by the new Super City. This included the new Te Wero lift bridge, cobbling and landscaping Jellicoe St, creating a public plaza at the entrance to Wynyard Quarter, the North Wharf promenade, the Silo Park at the western end of Jellicoe St and a 1.5km tram circuit. There are restaurants and promenades and bars and parks galore. All that is missing are syndicate bases for an unknown number of challengers.

The precedent with the syndicates is that the host city provides a suitable space and the yacht teams build their own facilities. The Auckland Council subsidiary, Waterfront Auckland, which oversees the area, has identified six potential sites for a race village/team compound. Some involve considerable expenditure, such as the extension of the Halsey St wharf out into the harbour. Others, such as the west side of the Wynyard reclamation next to Westhaven Marina, are complicated by existing tank leases and the problems of fixing the land underneath.

To Waterfront Auckland chairman Bob Harvey, the "perfect" site would be atop the existing Wynyard Wharf on the city side of the Wynyard reclamation "peninsula". It is a concrete structure stretching the length of the reclamation with a gap down the middle exposing the sea.

Mr Harvey says the syndicates could cover the gap with wooden planking, for instance, and build their temporary bases on top. He said he and the Waterfront Auckland staff think this site "would be an absolute doozy".

As for costs and any future planning, he said they would do nothing until the Cup was back and Team New Zealand and the squadron's intentions were clear.

This is all good news. The risk is our politicians, having already spent more than a quarter of a billion dollars making the place immaculate for overseas visitors, will be like those insecure, house-proud redecorators who don't know when to stop.

It would be nice to think we could sit back for once and enjoy ourselves.

- NZ Herald

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Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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