Party central focus shifts to Viaduct

By Bernard Orsman

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The Viaduct Events Centre, under construction on the Auckland waterfront, is being put forward as an alternative 'party central'. Photo / Supplied
The Viaduct Events Centre, under construction on the Auckland waterfront, is being put forward as an alternative 'party central'. Photo / Supplied

The $32 million Viaduct Events Centre under construction on the Auckland waterfront is being put forward as an alternative "party central" for the Rugby World Cup.

It is understood Auckland City Mayor John Banks will suggest the Viaduct Events Centre in talks next week with Prime Minister John Key and Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully.

Mr Key said yesterday he was open to looking for another site in Auckland after a political impasse between the Government and the Auckland Regional Council over redevelopment plans for Queens Wharf.

The planning and political delays over Queens Wharf took another turn on Wednesday when ARC councillors unanimously agreed to preserve the larger of the two cargo sheds on the wharf at a cost of $17.8 million.

This was different from an agreement between the ARC and the Government in April to remove both sheds and build a $9.6 million temporary structure for party central and a cruise ship terminal, named the "cloud" by Mr McCully and the "slug" by others.

Since April, the ARC and the Historic Places Trust have reached a provisional agreement to convert Shed 10 into a permanent cruise ship terminal and party central, alongside the temporary structure.

Mr Key said he was not angry but frustrated that the Government and the ARC had paid $20 million each to buy the wharf with a cruise ship terminal and party central in mind. He still hoped the wharf would be used as a cruise ship terminal.

"That said, we've never been a great supporter of keeping those sheds. It would be a substantial cost and we actually don't think they have any great particular beauty," he said.

Mr Key said the Government would look at possible alternatives for a party central base, "but I don't think in all good conscience I can put up an enormous amount of either ratepayer or taxpayer dollars for something that doesn't really seem to have a long-term strategic plan".

A big plus for the Viaduct Events Centre is that it is a permanent structure the same size as the "slug" at 6000sq m, which is being funded by the Auckland City Council. This would save taxpayers $9.6 million - the price the Government has agreed to pay for the temporary "slug" on Queens Wharf.

Construction of the events centre at Halsey St began in April and is due for completion in July next year, two months before the cup. Work also has consent or is under way on several other projects near the events centre as part of the first stage of works at the Tank Farm, all of which are due to be completed for the cup.

The Team New Zealand base will be demolished for a 3482sq m "gateway plaza" alongside the events centre and at the entrance to the Tank Farm across a new bridge from the Viaduct Harbour.

Jellicoe St is being transformed into a tree-lined boulevard and linked to a new North Wharf promenade with casual al fresco dining. At the end of Jellicoe St will be Silo Park, a waterfront park with 5200sq m of open space. The cup organisers could also use the Alinghi base in Halsey St.

John Dalzell, chief executive of Sea + City, the public body overseeing the funded works at the Tank Farm, said doing something complementary to party central at the Tank Farm had always been contemplated. It was too early to contemplate the scale of being an alternative party central, he said.

"We have got a number of existing industries we have to manage, the marine, fishing and bulk liquid industries," Mr Dalzell said.

Mr Banks, who has previously floated the idea of the events centre/Tank Farm/Viaduct Harbour for party central, is not commenting on alternative venues before talks with Mr Key and Mr McCully.

Although Queens Wharf is slipping out of the picture, the ARC is still working with the Government on options to convert Shed 10 alongside the temporary structure and hopes to have a resolution next week.

- NZ Herald

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