Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Buzz around Queens Wharf bid falls silent

Council says none of several bids for private development of waterfront icon being pursued

Any plans for commercial buildings on Queens Wharf must entail the Auckland Council still owning the wharf, says  chief executive Stephen Town. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Any plans for commercial buildings on Queens Wharf must entail the Auckland Council still owning the wharf, says chief executive Stephen Town. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Amystery bid to build two large commercial buildings on Queens Wharf in exchange for upgrading the downtown ferry facilities appears to be dead in the water.

Last month, the Herald revealed a company registered in the Cayman Islands wanted to replace the Cloud with commercial buildings stretching halfway up the 350m wharf.

The plans by the Ferry Project Group received a mixed reaction. There was positive feedback on the appearance of the three-storey buildings and on ratepayers not having to foot the bill to upgrade the rundown ferry facilities.

But opponents were concerned about the loss of public open space on the "people's wharf" and mysterious links to an overseas tax haven.

Council chief executive Stephen Town told the Herald the council had received a number of private development proposals for Queens Wharf and at this stage didn't intend pursuing any of them.

Mr Town would not comment on what that meant for the Ferry Project Group, saying only that any future consideration would always be on the basis of the council retaining ownership of the wharf.

The frontman for the group, Auckland businessman Sir Noel Robinson, was unaware of Mr Town's comments but said the plans were purely an idea and in the very early stages.

Sir Noel, a longtime supporter of Mayor Len Brown and donor of $20,000 to his election campaign last year, said the group had not made a formal presentation to the council.

The group's bid for Queens Wharf is just one of a number of private interests jostling for a slice of the city waterfront, and is dividing city leaders.

Four weeks ago, councillors voted 14-7 to approve in principle the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square to Precinct Properties for a mall, and last week the city council received a surprise $75 million offer for the downtown carpark on prime waterfront land.

Stephen Town
Stephen Town

The offer, by the operators of Tournament Parking, was rejected by the council on Monday.

The flurry of private interest in the waterfront area and lack of a bold and comprehensive waterfront plan have led to a new lobby group being formed along the lines of Wellington's Waterfront Watch, which has had a big impact preserving the capital's waterfront for the public and supporting good development.

Rick Walden, who heads a council unit co-ordinating and focusing activities on downtown Auckland and the waterfront, said a downtown precinct framework would be completed in the next couple of months and made public.

Mr Town's statement affects other proposals for Queens Wharf, including separate plans for Maori and Pacific ventures - Pacific Discovery and Kiwa - plus developers who have shown an interest since the bid from the Ferry Project Group.

Eyes on the prize
Private bids for public waterfront land:
• Two large commercial buildings on Queens Wharf - rejected, for now.
• Privatisation of Queen Elizabeth Square for a mall - approved in principle by councillors.
• $75m offer for downtown carpark - rejected.

- NZ Herald

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