Greg McKeown: Citizens Let your voices on waterfront be heard

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Wynyard Quarter. Photo / Natalie Slade
Wynyard Quarter. Photo / Natalie Slade

Auckland's Eden Park and Rome's Colosseum have a couple of similarities. If there weren't political motives in building the Colosseum then there were at least political consequences.

While 50,000 Romans (60,000 with the upper gallery added) were being entertained in the Colosseum they weren't thinking about weighty issues like plans for Rome and corruption in their senate. Today's distraction is the Rugby World Cup. It ranks for media attention ahead of the draft Auckland Plan.

This is the all-important plan. The first "one plan" for Auckland. The 30-year plan that will allow Aucklanders to speak with one voice. What we decide now will shape our city for our kids and their kids.

Things are planned for the waterfront that Aucklanders are not aware of.

Before wading into a few of the issues, let's all agree that there are some great new waterfront spaces. Places to stop and relax, to sit and to play.

Places that welcome you even if you haven't got a restaurant seat. The problem is what we are seeing now is not what's in the pipeline.

First up, the playground on North Wharf. Waterfront Auckland's plans are to replace that with an office block, all to the tune of Joni Mitchell's "paved paradise and put up a parking lot". We can't take this example in isolation but it starts a conversation about other development plans. Amazingly, the new ASB Bank building is going to be over 50m tall when elsewhere the plan laments the height of tall buildings on the waterfront. What a contradiction. Our big financial and legal service companies are better located back in the CBD core, leaving the waterfront for new opportunities.

Over the next 20 years most of the tanks in the Tank Farm will go. But the plans are to replace those with more offices, shops and apartments, all in the name of "mixed use" - mixing up residents, workers and shoppers in one area. Taken in the context of the whole of the city centre, and in terms of building the world's most liveable city, we can't afford to build apartments on the Wynyard Wharf Headland. We must preserve this area for more open space and new public buildings.

The mayor's June announcement that Queens Wharf would be the site for a new cruise ship terminal for 15 to 20 years was a disappointment. All the noise had been that Shed 10 could be used on a temporary basis while we found a better spot.

Having the cruise ship terminal there privatises the eastern side of Queen's Wharf and limits the opportunities for the public on the western side. A big cruise ship coming in is like 12 737s landing at once. Thousands of travellers, big customs clearance areas, baggage handling, transit lounges, scores of tour and transfer coaches and taxis, and trucks supplying the ship. Quite simply, it's like an airport by the sea. There are better places for our permanent cruise ship terminal to be.

The City Centre Masterplan says that the port will develop "largely on the same footprint". This is awfully deceiving. The plan is to extend Bledisloe Terminal an additional 250-plus metres into the Waitemata. It will stretch so far that the eastern views of the harbour we enjoy from Queen's Wharf will be obliterated. Gone. In other places the council has spared no expense in providing artistic illustrations of new ideas, but not so for the port.

Increasing the numbers of containers through the port from 890,000 to over 4 million per year is all part of the plan. Ports of Auckland says it must be done to cater for trade growth, and that it makes sense because the infrastructure and supply chain are already there. No they're not. To cater for growth the council has budgeted $1.7 billion for roading "upgrades" in Grafton Gully and rail upgrades to South Auckland. These are the same rail routes, by the way, that we are going to build our new modern urban communities around. Are the dots really being joined here?

We do need to move North Island imports and exports, but when you start talking about 4 million containers per year, billions of dollars of new investment and conflicts with our rail-based rapid transit and growth plans, then it's time for Aucklanders to take a closer look at the plans and other options.

These are big issues and Aucklanders need their voices heard outside of Eden Park. What's it going to be for the draft Waterfront Plan? Thumbs up or thumbs down, or a shaking fist? Send the Emperor a message.

More online

Heart of the City is prompting responses to the draft Auckland Plan via www.weonlygetonechance.co.nz.

Greg McKeown writes on behalf of Heart of the City.

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