Key Points:

Planners have considered shifting cruise ship facilities from Auckland's downtown waterfront to the redevelopment of the Tank Farm.

Including dedicated cruise facilities at the Wynyard Pt site would benefit the industry, says a discussion paper put out by the Government Urban and Economic Development Office.

It would also save Queens Wharf for other development options.

But the paper says visual, noise and congestion effects of a berthing facility would need to be assessed for the potential detriment to developing Wynyard Pt for mixed commercial-residential use, as is proposed.

There are also concerns that the Wynyard redevelopment could be a decade away when better berthing facilities were needed in the short term.

Doing nothing - using other berthing opportunities at Queens Wharf or the existing Wynyard Wharf - would cater for cruise growth in the next two years and would not cost more than their routine maintenance by owner Ports of Auckland.

But failure to improve facilities to meet future growth forecasts would make it difficult to keep up ship volumes and would give visitors a poor experience.

Another option, improving facilities on the present main terminal, Princes Wharf, and using other wharves as required, would meet basic needs for the foreseeable future but would not address industry concerns.

The paper says the main risk of not urgently addressing known problems and capacity constraints is that the focus of cruise transfer activity might shift to Sydney or other Australian east coast ports.

Economic benefit to Auckland, at present $118 million a year, would be eroded. Another option was to ease pressure by redistributing ship visits to ports in other regions.

Feedback so far favours two other options.

One of these suggests developing Queens Wharf to accommodate cruise ship needs and put in minimal facilities. This would meet industry expectations and improve Auckland's attraction as a transfer port.

But the paper says it would be underuse of one of the best sites in downtown Auckland and missing an opportunity to create a unique visitor experience.

It would also mean the port company would have to move operations from Queens Wharf, which is used as a back-up cruise terminal as well as for non-containerised cargo, mostly imported vehicles and machinery.

The port company says it could sell or lease Queens Wharf for an amount that covers the cost of creating alternative facilities. Moving operations within two years would require interim measures, which would add to the sale price.

The paper suggests an enhanced cruise facility would give easier operations and improve the overall visitor experience.

It could be multi-use, as cruise ships did not need to take over the wharf exclusively.

The other favoured option so far is a more ambitious redevelopment which would transform Queens Wharf into a high-quality asset which would enhance visitor experience and the overall waterfront development.

However, it would be difficult for the port company to justify a traditional business case on spending millions on building.

Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee said the ARC considered Queens Wharf was the ideal place for another cruise ship terminal and would be talking to the Government about support for it.

He said the terminal could have other uses when it was not in use for cruise ships. That could be a regular market and exhibition space but the ARC wanted to talk to the city council and others about more civilian uses.

Auckland Mayor John Banks said he was happy that the ARC was going to negotiate and fund a deal with the port company on behalf of Auckland City and the region.

Auckland City had been talking to the company in good faith about selling to the city but was now supporting the ARC.

"If it's going to be funded by the people across Auckland as a legacy project then it makes sense rather than by a smaller number of constituent ratepayers in Auckland City."

Mr Banks said he was open-minded about which option for Queens Wharf was best.

"But I'm committed to the establishment of an international cruise ship terminal and a great public facility that opens up the waterfront to everyone."