RWC revellers left out in the cold

By Bernard Orsman, Isaac Davison

Work continues on the $9.8 million Cloud at the Rugby World Cup 'Party Central' in Auckland . Photo / Greg Bowker
Work continues on the $9.8 million Cloud at the Rugby World Cup 'Party Central' in Auckland . Photo / Greg Bowker

The $9.8 million Cloud at the Rugby World Cup "Party Central" in Auckland will host trade displays for New Zealand industries while Cup revellers are left out in the cold.

Details of the business focus of the taxpayer-funded structure became clear yesterday after it was revealed that a $2 million plastic waka was planned for Queens Wharf to promote Maori culture.

Rather than being a party venue, the opaque-roofed, steel and glass Cloud will house displays touting New Zealand's agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

Rugby fans will watch Cup games on big screens and listen to live performers outside.

Promoters expect the 178m-long Cloud will also promote other events such as fashion shows, a food and beverage expo and wine tastings as part of the Real New Zealand Festival "to celebrate all things New Zealand".

Prime Minister John Key last year dubbed Queen's Wharf "Party Central" for the 85,000 overseas visitors expected to come for the Cup.

He also described the Cloud as a "great venue to showcase the best of New Zealand".

But at least one Auckland leader says the Government over-hyped the entertainment aspect of Queens Wharf.

Auckland Council member Mike Lee said the Cloud was always going to house a mix of entertainment, tourism information and industry promotion.

But he said Mr Key had over-emphasised the theme of "Party Central" at the waterfront.

"Sure there's going to be a lot of big parties, but also some serious work on promoting New Zealand and it's multiple tourist attractions," Mr Lee said.

He was confident the waterfront's existing facilities, combined with outdoor events at the nearby Britomart public transport centre, would make it a successful World Cup hub.

Auckland Waterfront Development Agency chairman Bob Harvey said any belief that the Cloud would be a "beer barn" was mistaken.

"I never thought it would be a huge bar. People didn't want a bunch of international drunks. That's not what we intended to do ... Trade stalls are completely appropriate.

"Auckland has not seen [the Cloud] lit yet. It will be a dazzling, beautiful structure right at the bottom of Queen St. Auckland will fall in love with it."

Unveiling plans for the Cloud in October, Mr Key said its exciting design, alongside developments at the Wynyard Quarter, would do a great job of opening up the Auckland waterfront to the public and 85,000 overseasvisitors.

"Queens Wharf will be at the heart of the celebrations," he said. "The facilities on the wharf will not only enable the public to enjoy the games in a unique atmosphere but offer live events and a great venue to showcase the best of New Zealand."

VIP and media functions will also be held on the Cloud's mezzanine floor, which is already booked for delegates to the Pacific Island Leaders Forum the week before the Cup tournament.

Tourism New Zealand will also open a site to point visitors towards local attractions and other tourism opportunities throughout the country.

Alex Swney, head of the Heart of the City business promotion group in Auckland, said New Zealand had to take the opportunity to promote itself, as well as entertain visitors.

"Maybe something has been lost in translation, but the Cloud will serve its purpose. Tourists will go there, so we can take the chance to show what we do well. There's a ton of real estate on Queen's Wharf and plenty of opportunities for Party Central."

The Cloud will be joined by the $2 million plastic waka, a giant $12 million rugby ball and a refurbished cargo shed on the waterfront.

Shed 10, being renovated at a cost of $4 million, will be used as a terminal for two cruise ships during the Cup. It will host some events and, possibly, be used for markets.

"I expect the shed is where we can really party," Mr Swney said.

The Government is picking up the bill for the Cloud and the Auckland Council is paying the $4 million for the work on Shed 10.

- NZ Herald

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