SkyCity Entertainment Group is cold-shouldering a 15-level brothel planned to rise opposite its popular SkyTower.
Peter Treacy, general counsel, expressed strong reservations about the country's first high-rise bordello going up on SkyCity's doorstep, near the entrance to its four and five-star hotels in the heart of Auckland's CBD.
Treacy is worried about what visitors might think of the Chow brothers' new building at 75 Victoria St West.
"We think it's less than ideal having the likes of foreigners and children who are visiting the SkyTower facing that. There's a lot of tourists and diverse people and it's not ideal to have that opposite New Zealand's top tourist destination. Over the last 12 months, over 600,000 people have visited the Tower," he said.
The SkyTower is a magnet for Auckland's CBD tourist trade and at 328m, is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand. The company has invested heavily in the site, expanding gaming facilities above its SkyCity Hotel where it spent $30 million last year and developing a string of new Federal St restaurants, as well as proposing a revamp for the area to make it more pedestrian-friendly. SkyCity has just spent an initial $10 million on Federal St.
Treacy's reservations about the Chows' plans are reflected elsewhere in the city, although Auckland Council is yet to decide if the application should be notified, giving the wider public a say. Treacy could not say if SkyCity would object if this happened.
Christopher Dempsey, a Waitemata Local Board member and planner, Bishop Pat Dunn of the Auckland Catholic Diocese and heritage advocate Allan Matson spoke out this week against the Chows' plans for the former Palace Hotel site on the Federal St corner.
Matson said the scale of the proposal had more than a minor effect on the formally recognised character of the adjacent group of early 20th century buildings.
Dempsey is sickened by the plans which he likened to urban design in Wainuiomata, raising the ire of that community.
John Morrissey, Wainuiomata Rugby Club president, was reported as having promoted his suburb as a tourist mecca to Rugby World Cup visitors and said he knew of no sex industry or high-rises there and Ray Wallace, Lower Hutt mayor, was reported as saying Dempsey should get his facts right before making throwaway comments.
But Dempsey clarified later that he was citing Wainuiomata more in relation to urban design, not saying it had a big sex industry but referring instead to the general Wellington area where the Chow brothers lived and said he wanted them to stay down south and not come to Auckland.
John Chow this week declined to comment on his plans but planner Green Group's Martin Green submitted the weighty application arguing strongly for the tower to be allowed because it mostly complies with existing planning rules.
The only major aspect which is non-complying is the short-stay accommodation, a discretionary activity on that site therefore up to the council to make a call.
* 17 licensed brothels now
* Several smaller unlicensed ones
* Decline in the last 4 to 5 years
* Previously, 24 licensed brothels
* In 2009, 16 licensed brothels
Source: Auckland Council