This is our chance to get it right.

Auckland Council will this afternoon decide in principle where America's Cup bases can be built on the city's waterfront.

The arguments for change are finely balanced. Too little and we risk losing the whole event to Tauranga or even Italy. Too much and we lose a precious part of our harbour, which we can never get back.

Team New Zealand wants to recapture the buzz of the 2000 event, which created the Viaduct Harbour. It is urging the council to extend Halsey Wharf as far out as Princes Wharf, so all the syndicates can be together.

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The council and the Government are worried about the $187 million price tag and further reclamation of the harbour, which Aucklanders have strongly opposed. Mayor Phil Goff has proposed a compromise solution, which would spread the bases between Halsey, Hobson and Wynyard wharves.

America's Cup Minister David Parker has gone further, suggesting a collection of vacant sites next to the storage tanks on Wynyard Wharf. That would save the harbour and preserve the waterfront for future development but it is not popular with Team New Zealand.

The stakes are high for everyone involved, which is why cool heads are so important. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform part of Auckland's waterfront.

Our decision needs to work for the next America's Cup regatta and the Apec conference of Asia-Pacific leaders to be held in Auckland in 2021.

But it also needs to make the harbour edge an attractive, liveable place for all Aucklanders and visitors for decades to come - or at least ensure that aim is still achievable once the regatta is over.

Auckland's critics say we struggle with "the vision thing" - and they are right. The city has taken decades to start work on an underground rail system, still wonders wistfully about a stadium in the CBD and is nowhere near unlocking the potential of its waterfront. But we have made improvements.

The America's Cup-inspired development of Viaduct Harbour paved the way for the regeneration of Wynyard Quarter, now buzzing with restaurants and new apartments.

We could achieve similar gains today if Auckland Council, the Government and Team New Zealand are willing to work together on a long term vision that benefits the whole city and the country. Let's get cracking.