Extending the heritage tram circuit around the Wynyard Quarter to Britomart within three years is the top priority in a draft masterplan for the waterfront.
The two heritage trams operating the 1.5km Wynyard Loop started operating only this month, but Waterfront Auckland has plans to extend them to Britomart with the possibility, long-term, of running light rail up Queen St and along Tamaki Drive to St Heliers.
Waterfront Auckland planning and design manager Rod Marler said the carnation-red heritage trams were a great short-term attraction for capturing the imagination and emotions of Aucklanders but the tram tracks, future-proofed to take light rail, offered a bigger opportunity along the waterfront.
The tram extension is expected to cost $8.1 million plus the cost of a new crossing, which is expected to be a lot less than the $47.3 million cost of an earlier plan for a permanent bridge across the Viaduct Harbour.
Auckland Council transport chairman Mike Lee said extending the trams less than 1km to Britomart would increase their value as a tourism attraction, picking up cruise ships visitors along the way.
Mr Lee, who as chairman of the Auckland Regional Council championed the $8 million set-up costs of the Wynyard Loop, said he favoured another crossing for trams as close as possible to the new $3.7 million pedestrian and cycling bridge across the Viaduct Harbour.
Work on laying tracks to Britomart could start at Christmas, and the project could be completed in about a year, he said.
Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye is pushing for a tram loop from the waterfront to Ponsonby and Grey Lynn, although Mr Lee and the Labour candidate for her seat, Jacinda Ardern, have questioned her sincerity, saying she is part of a Government that has squeezed public transport spending and refused to support the $2.4 billion central city rail tunnel project.
Mr Marler said the draft waterfront masterplan was an "action plan" summarising work over the past 15 years.
It contained a lot of relatively inexpensive "quick hits", such as a $9.2 million walking and cycling boulevard from the Auckland Harbour Bridge to Teal Park, and expensive "aspirational" projects, such as a new island off Westhaven Marina, built from dredgings, where people could live on boats.
The plan includes many projects already proposed, such as the boulevarding of Quay St from lower Hobson St to Britomart Place, creating a 4.25ha headland park at Wynyard Quarter, building a cruise ship terminal on Queens Wharf and a $4.4 million upgrade of St Marys Bay beach.
New ideas include a salt-water pool at the end of Queens Wharf similar to Sydney's Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool, a wharf extension at the end of Wynyard Quarter for historic ships and waka, and spending $700,000 to tear up the bland paving at Waitemata Plaza to create a green space in the Viaduct Harbour.
Another idea is to extend the Halsey St wharf outside the Viaduct Harbour for a new sheltered water space that could be used for dragon boat racing and other recreational activities.
Waterfront Auckland is seeking $250 million from the Auckland Council over the next 10 years, with another $250 million coming from the private sector for a $500 million works programme.
Auckland Council officers believe the total cost of the projects in the 30-year masterplan is $2 billion and have warned about the practicality of some of the visionary ideas.
The draft waterfront masterplan will be issued on September 20 for public consultation.
Next three years
* Walking and cycle promenade from harbour bridge to Tamaki Drive
* Waitemata Plaza at the Viaduct to become a green space
* Cruise ship terminal on Queens Wharf
* Trams to Britomart
* Harbour bridge park
* Headland park on Wynyard Quarter
* St Marys Bay beach developed and bridge across the motorway to the suburb
* Boulevarding of Quay St
* Captain Cook Wharf becoming public space
* Island off Westhaven Marina where people can live on boats
* Notable building at headland park
* Heritage yacht basin at Wynyard Quarter