Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Heart of city heading for coronary

Triathletes chugging around CBD will cause huge distruption this weekend

The downtown area will grind to a halt as Auckland hosts a leg of the world triathlon series. Photo / Michael Craig
The downtown area will grind to a halt as Auckland hosts a leg of the world triathlon series. Photo / Michael Craig

On Monday, Queen St, the main artery of the heart of the city, was blocked by the Golden Mile street race, a rush of nostalgia orchestrated by former Olympic champion, councillor Sir John Walker.

This weekend, it's not just Queen St that's to be closed off to normal traffic, but several adjacent streets, to say nothing of Quay St and the city end of Tamaki Drive as well. Most of the area, for periods from midnight tonight to 5pm on Sunday.

Why? So an international sports events franchise can host the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland leg of the world triathlon series. Not surprisingly, some business owners and residents are a little put out. Well, let's be honest, they're a lot put out. It's "absolutely diabolical", says menswear retailer Murray Crane.

Race boss Dave Beeche argues that "we believe the net overall impact is a gain for Auckland". But that's hardly compensation for the losses local businesses face as potential customers stay away in droves, banned from driving or parking within the cordoned-off area.

Of course, there's always public transport, but that's going to be caught up in the blockages as well. Auckland Transport directs us to seek detailed information at But that's not exactly user-friendly. To make sense of it, you have to go to a map and work out the number of the bus stop or stops you plan to use. Then you have to open a long-winded chart where you match the bus stop number to the temporary stop your bus will use.

Heart of the City business association chief Alex Swney seems torn between cheer-leading "another opportunity for Auckland to put its best foot forward" and backing the retailers who pay his wages. His compromise is to demand a cap on the number of street-closing events.

With more than 50,000 people living in Auckland's CBD, it's no longer just the retailers and the businesses being inconvenienced. Organisers talk of 50,000 spectators, presumably spread over two days. How many of those, you wonder, are residents trapped in their own frontyards.

Even hotel guests will be trapped. Organisers warn that "guests who are checking in on Saturday, April 6, will not be able to bring in or take out their vehicles into the streets that are closed after 11am. Taxis and shuttles will be able to collect/drop off guests from the closest point outside of the event course". What a great welcome to Auckland after a long flight from Europe, the US or China.

It's something of a repeat of the pre-Christmas madness that blocked Victoria St at Victoria Park for the Friday night and most of the Saturday of the Red Bull-sponsored boyracer contest last year, but on a grand scale.

It's as though these event organisers feel the need to bring a city to a grinding halt in order to draw attention to themselves, and the more inconvenience the better.

Why, for instance, is it necessary to keep the CBD locked down the whole of Saturday night, when the official schedule has the last race of the day - the Elite Women - starting at 3pm. Being the elite, presumably they won't still be puffing up and down Queen St on their bikes after sundown. So why not let the city return to normal for the night?

Exactly why anyone needs to be chugging around a Queen St circuit isn't obvious. Compared to other world cities on the circuit, the built attractions of Auckland are hardly the city's main drawcard. Downtown London, or Madrid or Stockholm - three other destinations on this circus - it is not. What we do have is a splendid harbour, and west of the event central on Queens Wharf, there are great expanses of waterside land just begging to be played in. Wynyard Quarter is supposed to be the city's new playground. It's home to Team New Zealand's base. It stretches around past Westhaven Marina to the harbour bridge.

The argument for using Queen St and Shortland St is to throw in a hill or two. If it's a hill they need, there's always one of the bridge clip-ons. Using it, they'd get not just a hill, but a scary wobble as the bridge flexed itself in surprise at the intrusion.

For the pay-TV audience, the bridge crossing would be an added frisson they're not going to get from watching athletes chug up and down unremarkable Queen St. It would also help keep the heart of the city from a self-inflicted coronary.

- NZ Herald

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Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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