Key Points:

The country's largest mall is about to open as Westfield unveils its most ambitious centre in New Zealand.

The $210 million Westfield Albany will have 7ha of indoor space, half a hectare more than Kiwi Income Property Trust's 6.5ha Sylvia Park.

The two giant mall owners are pitched in a battle for the Kiwi shopping dollar, racing to build vast new centres with large anchor tenants, boutique style fashion shopping, foodcourts and thousands of free carparks to attract the biggest retail spend.

On August 30, global mall operator Westfield will open its newest and biggest centre, initially opening half the shops while the rest are being built.

The centre was announced by Westfield New Zealand director John Widdup in 2003 after about two years of planning. At the time, he said the mall would be a challenge to the big-box style of development, its bars and restaurants opening out to the north and flowing onto plaza and streetscape areas.

The Albany mall will have 7ha of indoor space: 4.9ha of floorspace to house 150 shops and 2.1ha of indoor area for associated offices which are being built on level one of the sprawling mall.

The new mall will be Westfield's largest centre in New Zealand, much larger than its Queensgate in Wellington at 4.6ha.

This month, Westfield will open the first 70 shops, including a New World supermarket and K-Mart.

On November 1, the rest of the centre will open, including a large-format Farmers and Sky City Cinemas multiplex.

Prime Minister Helen Clark is expected to unveil the new centre in a series of high-profile events expected to be announced soon. Westfield managing director Stephen Lowy - son of Frank Lowy who founded Westfield - is also expected to visit from Sydney.

The mall will have a 560-seat foodcourt but also has big expansion potential.

Deb McGhie, Westfield NZ's national public relations co-ordinator, said yesterday the centre took up only part of the site and could be expanded over time.

Retail leasing experts said the fast-growing northern tip of the North Shore could take double the amount of space Westfield was offering. Retail demand was for about 16ha of shops with associated offices, rather than 7ha, one leasing chief said.

In May, Westfield said it would take a rare step and sell two of its malls. Justin Lynch, Westfield NZ's deputy director, said expressions of interest would be called for shopping centres at Glenfield and Pakuranga.

Westfield is the world's largest mall owner, with 121 centres worth $67.8 billion in Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

Shop North

* The new Albany centre will be New Zealand's largest mall.

* It will have 4.9ha of shops but 7ha of indoor space overall

* Sylvia Park, the biggest mall at present, has 6.5ha of indoor space.