More than three-quarters of Aucklanders questioned in a Herald poll want more wharf space opened up to create world-class public areas on the waterfront.
Local authorities have responded by saying bringing Aucklanders to the harbour area around the end of Queen St will be the next chapter in the city's development.
A thousand Herald readers have given their views on the waterfront, presenting a wide range of ideas that reflect their pride in the Waitemata Harbour.
Ninety-six per cent of respondents said the waterfront was important for the city.
The Herald today starts a five-part series investigating options for a more vibrant, people-friendly waterfront.
Tourism Industry Association chief executive Martin Snedden, who oversaw last year's Rugby World Cup tournament, said this was the city's chance to get it right.
"Right here, right now, Auckland has a wonderful waterfront opportunity," he said.
It needed people's support to give it "character, heart and buzz".
Reader views focused on bringing more public attractions to Queens Wharf and its vicinity.
More than three-fifths did not like the wharf's current facilities. It has the Cloud and Shed 10 for generally exclusive events - but otherwise is mostly vacant space.
About the same number wanted the adjacent Captain Cook Wharf to become public space.
Ideas for the waterfront stressed the importance of making it accessible to everyone, including families and pedestrians.
Suggestions for achieving this ranged from markets, parks, festivals, walkways and fishing spots to sports fields, art galleries, convention centres and stadiums.
"It's entirely understandable that people want more access to the waterfront, and over time we'll make more wharves available," said Ports of Auckland spokesman Matt Ball.
"It is our ambition to release Captain Cook Wharf and to open Marsden Wharf for public access."
But the ports company would have to replace the existing facilities on the wharves first, Mr Ball said, and that could take 10 years.
The Auckland Council's policy planning manager, Ludo Campbell-Reid, said authorities acknowledged that the waterfront had a problem where the city met the sea.
"The surprising thing is there's no place on the waterfront that's necessarily for pedestrians," he said. "You have to go left or you have to go right. You don't go down the middle.
"We're competing with the world every day for jobs and investment, and the waterfront is our biggest opportunity."
The central wharves would be the next area to be worked on, following the opening of the Wynyard Quarter.
Auckland architect and urban planner Graeme Scott said Waterfront Auckland, the council's waterfront agency, had listened to submissions and put together a good blueprint.
One problem was having too many passive concrete areas, he said.
"Queens Wharf is a good example of what's wrong with hard paving and buildings. If there are thousands of people on Queens Wharf, it's fantastic. But if you walk out there mid-week or Sunday morning, it's not a very nice place to be."
The Herald poll was taken during the first week of September, assisted by Nielsen Research.
Last year's opening of Wynyard Quarter and Rugby World Cup festivities opened the eyes of thousands of Aucklanders to new waterfront possibilities.
Since then, local authorities have been issuing plans sketching out possible developments, in line with Mayor Len Brown's plan to make Auckland the world's most liveable city.
And a review of the waterfront's long-term future is being made after a public outcry against expansion of port facilities.
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