Moves are afoot to pedestrianise Queen St and High St in downtown Auckland as the city is turned over to people not cars.

Auckland Council will shortly start public consultation on several downtown projects timed to be completed for the America's Cup in 2021, including the upgrade of Quay St along the waterfront.

The council plans to spend $1 billion in the central city over the next decade, including $430 million in the downtown area where New Zealand's largest property development, the $940m Commercial Bay office tower and shopping centre, is rising on the waterfront.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the nature of the central city is changing, with 50,000 residents, thousands of students and 120,000 workers piling into the city each day.

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Once the America's Cup is over, Goff said, work is expected to begin on modern trams for Queen St, which is expected to be pedestrianised from Customs St to Mayoral Dr.

There would be more shared space in places like Federal St, and High St could be pedestrianised.

Goff said High St clearly needs an upgrade because large numbers of pedestrians are squeezed on to narrow footpaths by relatively few cars.

"This month, the city centre business association, Heart of the City, will engage with the High St community, asking them what changes they would like to see.

"Cars will continue to be a part of how we move about Auckland and we will need to ensure service and emergency vehicles have access, but with 37 per cent growth in the city centre workforce and a five-fold increase in residents since 2000, public space and streets need to be rebalanced towards people," Goff said.

The council's 10-year budget has $14.2m set aside to upgrade High St, but not until 2024.

Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said High St is a pretty special part of the city, but is a constrained space with challenges of traffic congestion, rubbish collection and loading.

"We know that the city is changing, there are a lot more people in the city and habits are changing," she said.

Beck said there are different views about what should happen on High St, including keeping cars.

With no money for a major upgrade until 2024, she said there are opportunities to make small improvements and trial things, like street closures and widening footpaths, but wanted to make sure people have a say.

Planning committee chairman Councillor Chris Darby said the new downtown will be a series of destinations, thriving with life and enticing people to the water's edge.

"We're also exploring options that allow people to rediscover lower Queen St and surrounds by creating streetscapes for people," Darby said.

An artist's impression of the proposed Wynyard Common at Wynyard Quarter.
An artist's impression of the proposed Wynyard Common at Wynyard Quarter.

$1 billion City spend up

Downtown - $430m

Quay St seawall strengthening
Quay St upgrade
Downtown ferry basin redevelopment
Mooring dolphin off Queens Wharf for cruise ships
New bus terminals on Quay St and Lower Albert St
Downtown public spaces

Midtown and uptown - $254m

Further upgrades on Federal St
Possible upgrade of Hobson St near around new convention centre
Albert St upgrade
High St/Mills Lane/Beresford Square/Emily Place upgrades
Karangahape Rd cycleway and street redevelopment

America's Cup - $123m

Build five bases on Wynyard Wharf, one on Hobson St wharf extension and house Team New Zealand in the Viaduct Events Centre
$57m from council, $66m from Government

Wynyard Quarter and Westhaven - $161m

Includes a new park called Wynyard Common