Mark Donnelly: Strike the tent, let's keep the sheds

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Mark Donnelly, an independent Auckland City councillor, says Auckland has much more to offer than a tent on a wharf.

It would be more interesting to develop the sheds and surrounding areas than put up a tent. Photo / Brett Phibbs
It would be more interesting to develop the sheds and surrounding areas than put up a tent. Photo / Brett Phibbs

As an Aucklander I ask that Prime Minister John Key reconsider the headlong rush into demolishing the Queens Wharf sheds to host "party central".

While the recent Herald survey reported 53.2 per cent of Aucklanders support the Government's current proposal, this is not a ringing endorsement.

Much of this support will be those who didn't want the $97 million grand scheme. In fact, hosting the Rugby World Cup in the two sheds makes sense to many Aucklanders.

Why on earth knock down those sheds just to put up a temporary tent? The sheds will provide two venues which have greater character and points of differentiation from many other Auckland locations.

While party central is one element of the Rugby World Cup mix, it needs putting in perspective?

We will have other "live" sites, for example Aotea square. We'll also have other large venues for corporate hosting in the hotels, convention centres, and so on.

We already have numerous small intimate bars, cafes and restaurants that can show visitors the sophisticated Auckland that we want them to see, not just in town but around the city ... Takapuna, Devonport, Parnell, Newmarket, Kingsland, Ponsonby and many more.

How is party central going to fit into the mix? We don't want it cannibalising the private sector - many businesses have been struggling through the recession and they don't need the Government competing against them.

And we don't want it to become a booze barn, which would showcase New Zealand's alcohol problems to the world. In my view it should be complementary, and given it will be largely taxpayer-funded, it should have an hospitable New Zealand feel to it.

We want it to say something about New Zealand, to be welcoming and a bit funky and interesting. Somewhere that won't just draw the drunks late at night, but a place that will be an interesting and active place at all times of the day, throughout the whole tournament.

I'm sure those were the original goals as well - I just think we've gone off track.

Mike Lee's tent won't cut it. Where's the wow factor? It will just look like a cheap Band Aid - is that the message we want to send?

When renovated, the two-storey shed would provide a substantial character building, with modern roof structures and extensions. This would allow private businesses to lease space and to be involved - not just for the Rugby World Cup, but beyond.

This would allow Auckland to properly review how this magnificent wharf could be used.

Aucklanders have said they want waterfront developments to be planned by the new mayor and Auckland Council. So let them do it.

Don't bowl things over that have been there for a century just in the name of the Rugby World Cup.

We all want to see new economic growth in Auckland. I want to see new jobs, and I want to see improved facilities for the cruise industry that will see Auckland be a major hubbing terminal for cruises. But we haven't got the best solution for that yet.

Some have been led to believe that if they back the removal of the sheds they will be rewarded with a stunning waterfront building. Mike Lee needs to be upfront with us on what the "legacy" will be.

Why doesn't he show us what the replacement building will look like? Will we lose this wharf to a functional terminal box, which will see little or no future public use, due to custom areas, freight loading/unloading and bus movement areas?

I've seen some amazing concepts for artistic and interesting use of the sheds and open areas for the Rugby World Cup. We should be considering these - not just a tent.

Taking the demolition track destroys more than the sheds. It is creating controversy that is counter-productively undermining the build up to the event. It needn't do that.

Like other cities around the country Auckland is up for hosting the Rugby World Cup well. There are great architects and event organisers ready to make party central in the sheds a real success.

Straight after the party the same improvements can be used on a temporary basis for the 2011-12 cruise ship season, providing time enough for the new Auckland Council to sort out plans for the wharves that earn broader approval.

Keep the sheds for the Rugby World Cup.

- NZ Herald

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