Council's Queens Wharf plan 'hypocritical' - ARC

By Michael Dickison, Edward Gay

The original proposal incorporates the existing shed. Photo / Supplied
The original proposal incorporates the existing shed. Photo / Supplied

The Auckland City Council has dug up a 10-month-old design for Queens Wharf party central to replace the Government's proposal released just last week.

The move comes just 500 days before the Rugby World Cup is due to kick off.

The city council's proposal, passed in a council budgetary meeting today and backed by Mayor John Banks, would keep the wharf's two 98-year-old sheds.

But Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee has dismissed the idea as "an election stunt" ahead of the super city election later this year. Mr Banks has put his hand up for super city mayor.

"It is also blatantly hypocritical when Mr Banks and his C & R dominated council are right this minute planning to put a wrecking ball through two fine art-deco style buildings Auckland City Council owns on Wynyard Point," Mr Lee said.

"The ARC is also before the Environment Court trying to protect a Maori burial site on pristine Owhiti Beach on eastern Waiheke Island from a coastal development - again opposed by Auckland City Council," Mr Lee said.

The proposal put forward by Auckland City Council was first mooted in June last year as a short to medium-term plan for Queens Wharf but was scrapped in favour of a more permanent solution to be decided by a public design competition.

Eight finalists from that competition, which had a cap of $49 million, were all rejected late last year.

Three further designs put forward by the Government were rejected by Auckland's mayoral forum in February.

Last Tuesday, Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully revealed Government plans for a temporary structure, which would cost $23.4 million - to be paid for by the Government and the regional council - and have the two sheds dismantled.

The Historic Places Trust then said the sheds should have been included in the design because they were an important part of New Zealand's maritime history.

The proposal revisited today would cost $26 million and be paid for by the city council.

It would spruce up the eastern shed and leave open the option of dismantling the other to build something "fantastic" in the longer-term, said councillor Aaron Bhatnagar.

It was now up to the Government and the Auckland Regional Council whether they would accept the plans, Mr Bhatnagar said.

"I agree the process has been a roundabout one ... but it started a discussion about what Aucklanders want."

The Government and the Auckland Regional Council own Queens Wharf, after buying it for $40 million last year with Prime Minister John Key hoping to turn it into "party central" for the World Cup.

Mr Banks said today that Auckland City Council's "eleventh-hour bid" would preserve the wharf's heritage.

"I acknowledge some of the public do not have a problem with pulling down the old sheds but once they are gone, that's it."

Mr McCully is currently in the air flying to Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia.

ARC councillor Joel Cayford supports keeping the sheds and said he had been given a heads up by Auckland City councillors that the old design could get the nod.

"It is time now for Auckland City, the ARC and the Government to get together again," Mr Cayford said.

"The sheds do not need to be bowled for the Rugby World Cup, that's the important thing," Mr Cayford said.

Asked if the continued u-turns over Queens Wharf vindicated the new Auckland Super City, Mr Cayford said there would have been better confusion if one organisation owned Auckland's waterfront.

He said while some ARC councillors wanted to take the opportunity to build a cruise ship terminal now, others wanted to hang back and draw up a cohesive waterfront plan.

Mr McCully is currently in the air flying to Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia.

A spokesman said he was not available for comment.

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