Rugby fans told: Snub wharf

By Bernard Orsman

Queens Wharf. Photo / Supplied
Queens Wharf. Photo / Supplied

Auckland City Mayor John Banks is telling rugby fans to steer clear of Prime Minister John Key's "party central" on Queens Wharf and party elsewhere in the city.

"The sooner we move away from this as the place of 'party central' in the middle of winter next year, in howling northeasterlies on the end of Queens Wharf, we will be better off," he said.

Places like a new $29.6 million marine events centre, the $90 million upgrade of Aotea Centre, the Viaduct Harbour, Ponsonby Rd and Parnell Rd would all be "party central" for the Rugby World Cup next year, he said.

Mr Banks was speaking yesterday after Greater Auckland mayors reached a consensus not to proceed with the $97 million upgrade of the wharf in the current downturn.

The sole objector was Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee, who berated the seven territorial mayors for a failure of nerve and leadership to go with the plan that included a $49 million cruise ship terminal.

Mayoral Forum chairman Mark Ball of Franklin said that while the mayors supported redevelopment of Queens Wharf, it was inappropriate in the current economic climate to spend $100 million without a blueprint for the waterfront.

"It is not fiscally prudent as leaders of the community to be handing over what may turn into a pup for the incoming Auckland Council."

Through a spokesman, Mr Key said the Government, as owner of the wharf with the regional council, would reflect on the forum's comments.

"We are disappointed with the outcome and the continued inability of the elected mayors across the Auckland region to agree on a sensible way forward. We still believe Queens Wharf is the right place to host 'party central' for the Rugby World Cup, and the right place for a cruise ship terminal," said Mr Key, who came up with the idea of "party central".

With no lead from the mayors and no timeframe from the Government, the wharf's future is up in the air 18 months out from the tournament.

A letter from Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully to Mr Lee this week shows he believed the consultation process for the $97 million cruise ship option and three cheaper party central-only alternatives strongly supported the cruise ship terminal.

The cruise ship industry, Ports of Auckland and Tourism Auckland were among groups lobbying for a terminal. None offered financial assistance.

Heart of the City and the Auckland Architecture Association have been lobbying to wait until the Super City and a waterfront masterplan are in place before developing Queens Wharf.

Mr Banks said that if the Government proceeded with an expensive development on Queens Wharf, he would withdraw his council's funding for the project, but would be prepared to look at a temporary option.

The Mayoral Forum also reached a unanimous decision to underwrite a $40 million shortfall for the $256 million upgrade of Eden Park through the Auckland City Council.

Eden Park Trust Board chairman John Waller said the board planned to present a business plan to the council in the next two weeks showing how it intended to raise sponsorship and fund debt from any shortfall.

He could not guarantee at this stage that the board would be able to fully fund the $40 million.

In 2006, when the board was promoting a $320 million upgrade, it undertook to provide $65 million from a $17.5 million loan and $47.5 million from sponsorship and other sources.

- NZ Herald

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