Enough has been said about the Auckland Regional Council and the Government's lack of integrity and competence on the subject of Queens Wharf.

Having designed a number of contemporary public buildings here in Australia and elsewhere, I'm going to comment on another aspect of the lack of vision evident in the ongoing management of this project.

Nations and corporations worldwide are now looking at how they can economically reduce their carbon emissions, reduce waste and energy consumption, and generally start to take some responsibility for the mess their activity leaves behind.

The Auckland Regional Council and the Government are happy to wipe out two fine historic wharf structures which could readily be adapted for contemporary purposes, to replace them with - tents. That is, until they can work out what it is they do want.

In short, the lengthy process that absorbed hundreds of architects, teams of bureaucrats and substantial sums of money has resulted in minus two buildings.

The waste, if it weren't so horrifying, would be funny - a kind of satire about how to waste as much of your resources as you can, and then skite about it.

The environmental movement's greatest task is to move the Western World away from the "throw away" society it has become, back to a society that cares for what it already has.

Buildings are one of the great gobblers of energy. Every tonne of steel produces about five tonnes of CO2 emission.

There is no clearer statement of commitment to cleaning up the planet than when our leaders seek bold new architecture out of existing buildings.

We all remember the ugly duckling story. It never ceases to amaze me how much hatred a fledgling building has to endure, only to be revered when completed and useful.

With this column are images of an award-winning project where the adaptation of historic building into contemporary venues is achieved and now celebrated.

I admit they are from my office, because they are close to hand and because I lived through their transformation from public ridicule to strong community ownership.

Beauty can be found in disused structures but you have to look for it. The Queens Wharf sheds have wonderful timber linings, and are evocative of New Zealand's maritime past and its colonial connection to the world.

Two examples: The CarriageWorks, a multi-purpose arts centre at Eveleigh near Redfern, Sydney in the old Eveleigh Railyards. And another conversion of a 142-year-old reservoir into the Paddington Reservoir Gardens.

Both employ the architectural principle that the concept for the new use lurks within the artefact.

As architects, we explore this strategy for a contemporary expression of the new use, while aesthetically binding past and present together. A collective memory of the city is embodied in the new and relevant use. None of this should be underestimated.

The erasure of built history locks a city down into eternal immaturity. Humans need to be able to read their history - and also their contemporary culture aggregated in their surroundings.

If adaptive reuse is ignored, the only historic pieces of architecture left are hung up as lifeless museum pieces, or allowed to waste away.

Public buildings require great leadership because the tide of negativity against them can seem overwhelming.

However, let's look at it another way. Let's remember the colonial founders of New Zealand's emerging cities and towns, who built celebratory, economical and environmentally aware buildings, dreaming of the day when New Zealand would be a nation alongside those of the rest of the world.

Imagine trying to explain to them that the metropolis of Auckland, at the beginning of the 21st Century, couldn't get its act together to build a proper welcome for the country's biggest party.

In reviving the excellent buildings already on the Queens Wharf, we could have a venue that says something about Auckland, about the New Zealand character, and about the path New Zealand has taken to nationhood.

Last year, a proposal Queens Wharf project submitted by the Auckland architectural practice, Stevens Lawson Architects and our practice, Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects, along with TCL Landscape Architects, was placed on a short list from which the winner would be awarded the project.

That's what we and a large number of other practices who entered this competition were told, anyway. In the end, no project eventuated, no thanks were given, only a bit of crowing from politicians about how little the whole fiasco had cost them.

* Tim Greer is a partner in Tonkin Zulaikha Greer, an architectural practice in Sydney specialising in active re-use of Industrial Heritage buildings.