From grand designs to $10m wharf spruce-up

By Bernard Orsman

This would have been the winning design.
This would have been the winning design.

Queens Wharf is to be spruced up for the Rugby World Cup at a cost of about $10 million.

It is understood there is no political appetite or funding to proceed with a grand design for the wharf in the foreseeable future.

Last month, political leaders called a halt to the much-maligned design contest to turn Queens Wharf into a combined cruise ship terminal and "party central" venue for the 2011 Cup.

A joint entry from architects Jasmax and Architectus, featuring a ramp to the water at the end of Queens Wharf, was the winning design for the $47 million budget.

However, the winner was never announced. A total of 237 concept designs and 25 team expressions of interest were whittled down to eight finalists on October 26.

Speaking in front of the red gates at Queens Wharf on November 5, Auckland City Mayor John Banks and Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee said they had listened to the people and were not prepared to compromise the magnificence of the waterfront.

Mr Lee denounced the eight finalist designs as "lacklustre, underwhelming and mediocre".

Others criticised the "stingy" budget, project brief and tight timeframe.

It is understood Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully and Ministry of Economic Development officers tried to revive the Jasmax/Architectus design, but were told by Auckland leaders that it fell short of public expectations.

Now the focus is on turning Queens Wharf into an "attractive facility" and a budget of about $10 million will go towards tarting up the wharf and the two 1912 cargo sheds without compromising the site's long-term future.

Large television screens, bars and security barriers for thousands of fans will be installed. It is unclear what, if any, cruise ship facilities will be provided.

Several people have registered an interest in the project and there is talk of using Mike Mizrahi, whose Inside Out Productions is behind the promotion of the 100 per cent Pure New Zealand Rugby Ball in Paris, London and Tokyo for the 2011 Cup and light shows at the Auckland Town Hall and Auckland Ferry Building.

Placing the giant rugby ball at Queens Wharf is another option.

Mr McCully, his deputy Gerry Brownlee, Mr Banks and Mr Lee are expected to meet in the next few days to discuss Queens Wharf.

Committee for Auckland chairman Sir Ron Carter, a leading engineer, believes a long-term solution for Queens Wharf should not be rushed.

Providing something for the cup was not a huge job. The wharf needed new surfaces, lighting systems and place where people could view big screens.

- NZ Herald

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