Billboards face the boot from Auckland's city centre [+audio]

By Claire Trevett, Bernard Orsman

Workers whose drive into town is cheered by a shot of Daniel Carter's abs could soon be disappointed - the council wants to ban central-city billboards so people can appreciate the "buildings, heritage and natural landscape" instead.

Auckland City Council plans to ban billboards in the Queen St valley - from Hobson St across to Anzac Ave - including Britomart, Karangahape Rd and the Viaduct Harbour. It is argued the ban will help to make Auckland an "international city".

But the chief executive of the Communication Agencies Association, Mark Champion, said it would be more like the "Eastern Bloc before the fall of the Berlin Wall".

Billboards would also be banned from major shopping areas, including Newmarket, under a "moderately significant shift" to the current rules to be considered by the council's planning and regulatory committee tomorrow.

A report to the committee says the council has spent significant amounts to revitalise the CBD "and the proliferation of billboards is not seen as making a positive contribution to these efforts".

The billboards were "cluttering" and distracted from the buildings, heritage and natural landscape, which were the priority.

In comparison, industrial areas such as Penrose and the Rosebank Peninsula had little "visual amenity", needing fewer restrictions.

The outdoor advertising industry is against the ban, which the report estimates would lead to the loss of 90 jobs and $5.2 million a year from the local economy. "Given Auckland's GDP is approximately $38 billion the impact of this on the economy is insignificant."

The changes are expected to be endorsed by the committee and go to the full council later tomorrow. If approved, the changes will be publicly notified on January 15 and come into force by May.

They have the backing of a working party comprising planning and regulatory committee chairwoman Glenda Fryer and councillors Christine Caughey, Graeme Mulholland, Penny Sefuiva and Faye Storer. The council urban design panel has also backed the ban.

Ms Fryer said the ban would bring Auckland into line with other "main international cities with European influences".

"In those areas we are wanting to beautify there is a lot of foot traffic and really big, ugly billboards don't cut it. In Sydney and Melbourne they don't have billboards in the inner city or heritage areas."

Pacific Brands Clothing Group general manager Mark Jordan said his company, responsible for the Daniel Carter Jockey billboards, was unlikely to invest in billboard advertising at all if it could not do so in central shopping areas.

"In terms of visual appeal, I suppose that's subjective. Banning them is a bad idea. They can bring a bit of colour and life to the city as well. Look at Times Square."

Pop artist Billy Apple described a ban as "a bit sort of stupid".

"That's not moving forward ... We live in a commercial world."

He would like an industry watchdog to monitor their content. "Billboards as phenomena are so ingrained in society, how would you get rid of them?"

Should billboards be banned?

>> Your views: Billboards in Auckland's CBD
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