Planning has started for a giant tent to be erected on Queens Wharf for the Rugby World Cup on the site of one of two 98-year-old cargo sheds, both of which will be demolished.
The Government and the Auckland Regional Council, which took ownership of the wharf this month, have hired architectural firm Jasmax to design a temporary tent as "party central" for the cup tournament.
One source said the tent would be about 25m by 100m. It would be 12m tall at the highest point and would be on the site of Shed 10, on the eastern side of the wharf.
Plans for showcasing Auckland to the world next year have shrunk a long way from the $500 million waterfront stadium dreamed up by then-World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard in 2006.
Under that plan, Eden Park would have been dropped in favour of the new project as the city's premier stadium.
But the proposal was abandoned after a majority of Aucklanders rejected it.
Several proposals to open up the waterfront have since been put forward, but each has failed to satisfy all interests.
Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney said that this year, 82 per cent of Aucklanders spoke out against a rushed $100 million plan for a hybrid cruise ship terminal and party centre.
"Today we learn that we are lurching towards the other end of the spectrum - an entirely temporary tent structure," he said.
"It had always been our hope that the legacy of the Rugby World Cup was going to be an interim step that would activate our waterfront by enabling us to get behind the Red Fence and experience it while we develop a masterplan for our waterfront."
The latest plan for Queens Wharf has alarmed interested parties, who believe the 1912 cargo sheds should remain until the Super City council developed a new masterplan for the Auckland waterfront.
A second source said demolition of the two cargo sheds would enable Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully to pursue the cruise ship terminal that Auckland mayors in February decided against because of the economic climate.
Mr McCully is overseas, and his office did not return calls yesterday.
But Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee said Jasmax - which was part of last year's cancelled contest-winning design for Queens Wharf and a second cancelled cruise ship terminal design this year - had come up with an attractive temporary covered space for the cup tournament.
Mr Lee said the structure had not been approved by the Government or the Auckland Regional Council, which are expected to share the multi-million-dollar cost.
The plan involved demolishing the two sheds for a cruise ship terminal.
"They were cheap and nasty when they were built and now they are old and cheap and nasty and totally out of sympathy with the type of cruise ship terminal we would like to see there," Mr Lee said.
Auckland regional councillor Dr Joel Cayford said the council had a duty to keep the cargo sheds.
It should not replace them with a "plastic tent".
Historic Places Trust northern general manager Sherry Reynolds said she had not heard from the regional council or the Government about plans to demolish the sheds but would "certainly like to have a conversation with them".
The trust's northern registrar, Martin Jones, who has researched the two cargo sheds on Queens Wharf, said their place in the maritime landscape made them every bit as important as the ferry building.
"The sheds on Queens Wharf are the last remaining structures associated with the huge machinery of exports and as such are an extremely important part of the country's economic as well as social heritage," he said.
Last week, architect Gordon Moller suggested extending Captain Cook wharf, east of Queens Wharf, and building a double-sided overseas passenger terminal so two ships could berth simultaneously.
The regional council plans to open the wharf to the public from Anzac Day, April 25. The Red Fence around the wharf, built in stages between 1913 and 1923, will remain, but the gates to the wharf will be open. A modern red fence, separating Queens Wharf and the Ferry Terminal, will be demolished.
Meanwhile, the Herald has obtained images of unofficial plans for the wharf by advertising company Saatchi & Saatchi, which involve keeping the sheds and building similar structures using containers.
Last night, Saatchi & Saatchi's worldwide design director, Derek Lockwood, said the designs were a temporary solution to present to potential commercial cup sponsors.
Mr Lockwood said the idea of using containers came from an "Ashes and Snow" photographic exhibition on a pier in New York.
"If it was good enough for New York you would think it would be good enough for us," he said.
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