'Queens Wharf will become the people's wharf' - ARC

By Edward Gay

An artist's impression of the planned structure. Image / Supplied
An artist's impression of the planned structure. Image / Supplied

A temporary "party central" has been planned Auckland's Queens Wharf at a cost of $19 million which will see two 98 year-old sheds demolished.

The metal and glass structure will host international media and act as a terminal for two cruise ships.

But New Zealand Historic Places Trust chief executive Bruce Chapman said the sheds should have had a use in the design and an important part of New Zealand's maritime history will now be lost forever.

"Ways to adaptively reuse these buildings could have been explored, and we would have been prepared to support quite substantial changes to ensure as much of the buildings could be retained as possible

"However, we accept the position that has been adopted and now look forward to working closely with those involved in the design for the area to determine how much of the wharf's characteristic features, such as the rail lines and moorings, can be retained," Mr Chapman said.

Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully announced the plans for the redevelopment at a media conference in downtown Auckland this morning.

Mr McCully said the planned structure was "most assuredly not a tent" and would be built out of steel and glass.

The Government would pay $9 million for the "cost-effective building" and Auckland Regional Council ratepayers would pay $10 million for the upgrade of the wharf, Mr McCully said.

The structure would take up between 5.5 and 6 acres on the site - about 20 per cent of the wharf.

Mr McCully said earlier temporary options involving two 98-year-old cargo sheds on the wharf were "prohibitively expensive".

Auckland Regional Council (ARC) chairman Mike Lee confirmed both of the sheds were going, subject to consultation with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Mr Lee said the middle of the wharf - which consists of an extension of Queen St - was the most important heritage aspect of the wharf.

He said the red gates would be opened up to the public of Auckland this weekend.

"The Queens Wharf will become the people's wharf," Mr Lee said.

He said the structure could be moved after the World Cup and be re-used.

"If we don't do anything, we are going to be severely embarrassed, come the time of the Rugby World Cup," he said.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday said he did not have a problem with the demolition of the sheds.

"My view is that there is not much in the way of redeeming features when it comes to those [cargo] sheds. I would have liked to have seen the cruise ship terminal. In the long-term interests of the tourism sector, that was important," said Mr Key.

"But with that not being possible in the short term, a move towards something that is appropriate for a fan zone and party central is important."

The Auckland Architectural Association has joined the Historic Places Trust in calling for a halt to any immediate plans to demolish the sheds - the last of five sheds that originally stood on the wharf.

"To wastefully demolish the last of Auckland's working waterfront heritage before the Super City is formed and a comprehensive masterplan for the waterfront can be developed is premature, foolish and wasteful" said association spokesman Adam Mercer.

"Auckland is invariably acknowledged as a city that has demolished far too many of its heritage buildings. Auckland needs to preserve remaining character where it can."

Shed 10 on the eastern side retains much of its original structure, including riveted steel columns, beams and trusses, sliding doors, substantial Sydney blue gum joists, kauri sarking and the original electric lifts. Shed 11 retains similar original features.

Auckland mayor John Banks wanted to see the sheds retained but said the temporary structure will give the new Auckland Super City a chance to develop a long-term plan for Auckland's waterfront.

"It is my hope that the materials from the historic sheds should be set aside and re-used for another heritage project, possibly on the waterfront.

"I believe all parts of Greater Auckland will play host to party central, including Queens Wharf," Mr Banks said.

- With Bernard Orsman

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