Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Business group eyes Queens Wharf

Exclusive - 'Wealthy individuals' propose two major buildings and offer to improve ferry terminal in exchange.

Two proposed commercial buildings for Queens Wharf.
Two proposed commercial buildings for Queens Wharf.

A company registered in the Cayman Islands wants permission to build two large commercial buildings on Queens Wharf in exchange for upgrading the downtown ferry terminal.

The Ferry Project Group is proposing two buildings, each with three storeys, stretching halfway up the 350m wharf. There would be public space at ground level and two storeys of commercial space and carparks above.

The project would involve the removal of the Cloud, but retain the historic Shed 10, which has been refurbished as a cruise ship terminal and events venue.

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The frontman for the group is businessman Sir Noel Robinson, a longtime supporter of Mayor Len Brown who donated $20,000 to his election campaign last year.

Sir Noel yesterday briefed the Herald on the project, but would not say who was behind it other than that they were "very wealthy individuals" who own the historic Ferry Building through a company registered in the Cayman Islands.

Sir Noel, who does not have a financial interest in the project, said the idea was to take a "pigsty" at the harbour's edge and turn it into an international precinct with capacity for up to seven extra ferries and public spaces to draw people to Queens Wharf, all underwritten by commercial development.

"All they are saying is, 'Here's an idea. We have got the cash to do it. It is not going to cost the ratepayers any money'," Sir Noel said.

The proposal is drawing a mixed reaction in council circles, where it is among several projects being considered by the City Centre Integration Group, a new bureaucracy co-ordinating and focusing activities on the waterfront and downtown Auckland.

The project is believed to have support from transport officials enticed by the prospect of privately funded ferry facilities, but opposed by Waterfront Auckland, whose waterfront plan enshrines Queens Wharf as the "people's wharf".

In his latest board report, Waterfront Auckland chairman Sir Bob Harvey said options for Queens Wharf should always keep in mind public space, a place to walk and stroll and an opportunity to "survive design pollution".

Waterfront Auckland chief executive John Dalzell said he was happy for the project to go through the normal council processes and interested to hear what the public thought.

Councillor Mike Lee, who as part of the former regional council was instrumental in buying Queens Wharf for public use in 2009, said: "Queens Wharf is not for sale. It belongs to the people of Auckland."

Mr Brown, who has had a briefing on the project, said it was for council agencies to work through any waterfront development proposals.

From ferris wheel to taniwha to party central ...

What to do with Queens Wharf has been batted back and forth since the former Auckland Regional Council and government bought it from Ports of Auckland for $40 million in 2009.

A giant ferris wheel to rival the London Eye and a taniwha rising from the harbour were among ideas in a design competition to redevelop the wharf for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Then came a government idea for a $100 million cruise ship terminal and "party central". Instead the Government settled for the $10 million Cloud.

Since then, the historic Shed 10 has opened as a cruise ship terminal after an $18.6 million refurbishment.

Waterfront Auckland has approved a draft plan that includes returning a second historic shed to the wharf, but those plans are on ice while a new bureaucracy decides on wider development plans for the waterfront and downtown.

Public sentiment has always favoured the concept of the "people's wharf" and backed a Herald campaign to stop expansion into the Waitemata Harbour of Bledisloe and other wharves for port use.

Tell us

What do you think of the Queens Wharf plan? Email newsdesk@nzherald co nz

- NZ Herald

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