Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

New-look waterfront pulls in the crowds

50,000 people packed into Wynyard Quarter for its opening on Saturday. Photo / Natalie Slade
50,000 people packed into Wynyard Quarter for its opening on Saturday. Photo / Natalie Slade

The $120 million revamp of a grimy Auckland waterfront industrial area got the thumbs up from many of the 50,000 visitors to its weekend launch.

Seven civic projects in the Wynyard Quarter first stage were opened on Saturday by Prime Minister John Key and Auckland Mayor Len Brown.

About 4000, young and old, queued for a chance to ride the shining red 1920s trams on a sightseeing route which loops around the quarter and its waterfront attractions, public plazas and commercial real estate up for sale.

Retailers at the new North Wharf dining area and Auckland Fish Market were smiling, though weary.

A cafe proprietor told of a frantic day, using 13kg of coffee compared to the 20kg his other cafe in the city uses in a week.

Yesterday, the queues had vanished, though tram driver Owen Clough said: "We have been tram packed. I know it's a novelty but we were full up today too - standing room only until the rain came."

The first day's rides were free but the Dockline Tram company now charges $10 for passengers over 15.

Seeking dry refuge in the tram from a westerly squall, Lisa and Adrian Green, of Kohimarama, said they brought their children Bruno, Solomon and Darcy to "come and check it out".

"They have done a good job," said Mr Green.

"I think it will be fantastic when the tourists are around," his wife said.

Dave Bibby, of Torbay, recalled the area when it was the domain of workers in the fishing industry and the Turners & Growers produce markets.

"For the summer I think it will be brilliant. It's opened up the whole waterfront and with all the shops it will be an absolute destination."

A piano under cover of a veranda was a popular attraction - free for all to have a play on. Isaac Grigor, of Browns Bay, played to a round of applause from strangers as well as sister Phoebe and brother Finn, who said it was their favourite of the attractions.

Their mother, Micky, said that after 25 years in Auckland she was pleased to see an area that had been a "wasteland for so long" being filled with people and structures of interest.

"It's good the industrial aspect has been kept as well," said Mrs Grigor.

"It's a cool mixture of old and new, with the fishing boats and structures like the information kiosk made from shipping containers."

She said she had cycled around the streets of the Wynyard Quarter but seeing it in its new guise from the comfort of a tram was a definite drawcard for the family.

Marion Johnson, of Auckland, said she had crossed a new bridge to the area from Viaduct Harbour after hearing a sea shanty performance.

She was off to climb a platform showing a 35m-high former cement silo and six old fuel tanks.

"So far, it's good. It's an industrial mix but they are making such an effort."

Auckland City residents Emma Macfarlane and Alex MacDonald said their first impressions of the North Wharf area were of the potential of such a big space for public use.

They thought it would be popular in summer because of the atmosphere created by working boats, such as trawlers berthed almost at street level.

A seven-storey, 300-room hotel is proposed for former America's Cup sheds over the next five years.

THE NUMBERS

* 50,000 people visited Wynyard Quarter at the weekend.

* $120m has been spent on revamping the waterfront area.

* 4,000 queued to ride the trams on the 1.5km loop.

* $10 the cost of a day pass to ride the tram.

- NZ Herald

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