Bob Harvey: Aucklanders proud to show off waterfront gem

Britomart and Wynyard Quarter are lively precincts and the perfect backdrop for events. Photo / Supplied
Britomart and Wynyard Quarter are lively precincts and the perfect backdrop for events. Photo / Supplied

While some Aucklanders may choose to flee their city this weekend, for those that remain the city's waterfront - the place where our city began - will be the place to be to celebrate Auckland's anniversary.

The International Busker's Festival will be in full swing, kaimoana lovers will be enjoying the Seafood Festival in Viaduct Basin and on Monday there'll be waka, dragon boat and tug boat racing, along with the famous Anniversary Day regatta and for the rockers among us, the St Jerome Laneways Festival at Silo Park will round out a spectacular birthday for New Zealand's largest and most eventful city.

Such a great line up comes after another very successful event on the waterfront at the weekend, the Ironman 70.3, where top-level triathletes from around the globe swam, biked and ran their way from Princes Wharf to Wynyard Quarter across the Harbour Bridge to the North Shore and back.

It seems hard to imagine that not so long ago our waterfront was largely an industrial zone, closed to the public and inaccessible for events like these.

The America's Cup in the late 1990s was a catalyst for the Viaduct Harbour development and since then our waterfront has gone from strength to strength. Britomart and Wynyard Quarter are lively precincts and the perfect backdrop for events.

Auckland's leadership showed true vision when it took a design-led approach to infrastructure such as the Viaduct Events Centre, The Cloud, the retention of Shed 10 on Queens Wharf and surrounding public spaces, all of which has increased our chances of attracting major international events.

With events come visitors. One million people descended on Queens Wharf throughout the Rugby World Cup tournament, 40,000 people visited during Auckland Anniversary weekend last year, followed in March by the 270,000 attending the Volvo Ocean Race Stopover.

This activity bolsters our economy and creates a vibrant city but what I'm so pleased to see is that the waterfront is becoming a real congregation point for Aucklanders to come and celebrate.

Creating a sense of pride in a city like Auckland is no easy feat. But this sprawling place with its transient population has embraced its new waterfront, from the giant steps where you can touch the water, the towering concrete silos transformed into movie screens, and Karanga Plaza where people can lounge in the summer sun. All this tells me Auckland is slowly but surely starting to feel like it is developing a heart.

Attempts to create a heart in a city do not always have such a positive outcome. You only need to look at places like Valencia in Spain where, since the last America's Cup the bars and facilities so popular during that time are empty. Or the Melbourne Docklands development which had to retrospectively add in more public spaces to address the fact the place was empty of people.

The difference on Auckland's waterfront is there has been consistent vision and boldness to insist on quality urban design and a generous amount of open public space. This has created a waterfront area Aucklanders are proud to show off to friends from out of town, and love spending time in themselves. This approach, combined with a desire to retain the authentic working waterfront, has seen us win international accolades and continues to be recognised by leading waterfront authorities around the world.

So if you are coming into the city this weekend to enjoy all that's on offer, take a look around and be proud of your waterfront, it is a key part of the city's future.

Sir Bob Harvey, chairman, Waterfront Auckland.

- NZ Herald

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