Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Time's up for 'temporary' Cloud

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Bureaucrats sniffing around the waterfront for when the Cup comes could help us get our shed back.

The Cloud is a legacy of the Rugby World Cup. Photo / Sarah Ivey
The Cloud is a legacy of the Rugby World Cup. Photo / Sarah Ivey

It was disconcerting to read that bureaucrats from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have already been ordered by their minister to investigate what upgrades will be needed to the Auckland waterfront in order to host an America's Cup series.

Of course it's well known that politicians become instant groupies in the presence of successful sporting teams, but surely Steven Joyce, Minister of Economic Development, was rather jumping the gun last week, dispatching his investigators before the Auld Mug was even back in Kiwi hands. To say nothing of being well before either the experts from the ministry, or anyone else, knew what sort of contest, using what sort of yachts Team New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron had in mind.

That said, there is one thing the government officials could do while they mark time, and that's remove the detritus they left behind after their last invasion of the Auckland waterfront for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. In particular, I refer to The Cloud, that slug-like plastic and metal structure, erected on a "temporary" basis, as party central on downtown, Queen's Wharf.

Plonked on the wharf by Sports Minister Murray McCully during one of his panics that Auckland local government was not up to the task of hosting the Cup, he then walked away from it, suggesting we should all be grateful for his leaving such a wondrous gift in his wake.

My fear is that the Joyce Team will conjure up some role for The Cloud in a future America's Cup regatta, and that could drag its "temporary" status out another four or five years. By then it'll have become part of the furniture, and the so-called people's wharf will be saddled with an unplanned, and inappropriate, permanent structure.

Slotted on Queens Wharf between the historically listed Ferry Buildings and the equally ancient and restored Shed Ten cruise ship passenger terminal, The Cloud is a classic example of Auckland planning ad hocery. To add to the unplanned confusion, later this year we're promised a $1 million piece of interactive sculpture by Michael Parekowhai, to be erected on the harbour end of the wharf. What a design mish-mash Queens Wharf risks becoming.

Let's not forget, it's a structure which the Historic Places Trust belatedly elevated to its highest level of protection - Category One - during the the pre-rugby cup argie bargie over which sheds should be knocked over. Category One is for places of "special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value". Rushing in after an initial decision was made to bowl both the remaining wharf sheds, the trust declared "recent research has highlighted the heritage significance of Queens Wharf's two historic cargo sheds ... the only survivors of a waterfront development dating back to the early 20th century which brought cutting edge technology to the ... port operation". They are "the last remaining structures associated with that huge machinery of export and ... as important as the iconic Ferry Building".

In the end, a compromise of sorts was arrived at. Shed Ten would remain and be restored and adapted for a new use, while Shed Eleven would be removed and stored off site, to make way for the minister's temporary plastic structure.

With Mr Joyce's officials now lurking around the waterfront, kicking tyres until the future needs of an Auckland-centre cup defence become clearer, could I suggest they roll up their sleeves and fill their time, deconstructing Mr McCully's relic.

And if they still have time on their hands after that, they could unearth the carefully preserved remains of the deconstructed Shed Eleven and reinstate it, further up the wharf than it originally sat, alongside the already restored Shed Ten.

That would leave a large open space on the harbour's edge for the Parekowhai art work.

Exactly what role Queens Wharf will play in an America's Cup campaign is anyone's guess. But situated opposite the Britomart transport hub, it would make a convenient, bottom of the town ,"party central". With big screens and a viewing platform to watch yachts heading in and out of their Wynyard Quarter bases to do battle, it's just the sort of use envisaged when it was liberated from the port company for public use. Creating a party central within two 100-year-old sheds, to watch a 160-year-old yacht race seems particularly appropriate.

If it means The Cloud has to go, then so much the better.

- NZ Herald

Brian Rudman

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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