Prime Minister John Key has today broken ground on Auckland's most upmarket apartment development in the waterfront Wynyard Quarter, quipping that his next career could be as a digger driver.

Key was at the site of Wynyard Central, a new 10-level block where apartment prices start from $550,000 and go well over $1 million.

"I'm pretty excited by the opportunity to get on a digger but my office is not. They see all sorts of issues and negative outcomes. I was under strict instructions not to use the digger. I did what I always do with my office. I ignored them," Key told about 100 people gathered in a marquee for the luncheon event.

He said he was excited about the Wynyard Quarter.


"This whole area is really looking absolutely fabulous. Auckland has got to go up and it's got to go out and it's got to do both those things in equal proportions," Key said.

The site is on the corner of Madden St and Daldy St, about two blocks from the waterfront.

The new village by the sea is planned to create an entirely new suburban community between Westhaven and the central business district.

Artist impression of the Wynyard Quarter Wynyard Central apartment precinct with proposed walkways and street landscaping.
Artist impression of the Wynyard Quarter Wynyard Central apartment precinct with proposed walkways and street landscaping.

Key donned a hard hat and safety vest before climbing into a three tonne digger, under the guidance of building contractor LT McGuinness.

He then dug one scoop of dirt and dumped that on the ground, excavating the first soil from the site where the first stage of Wynyard Central will be built.

That will be 113 townhouses and apartments priced from $675,000 for a one bedroom apartment and car park. More than 60 per cent of the residences have already sold off the plans.

Phil Twyford, Labour housing spokesman, has criticised the new suburb as "ghettos for the rich", saying affordable housing should be included in the development.

Willis Bond described the larger-scale plans.

"The developments form part of the ongoing regeneration of 18.5 hectares of Auckland Council owned land in Wynyard Quarter that began in 2009 and is being led by the council organisation, Panuku Development Auckland," a statement said.

Mark McGuinness, Willis Bond managing director, said three different styles of buildings would go up: three four-storey timber-clad 'pavilion' apartment buildings fronting Daldy Street Park, eight brick townhouses forming an intimate mews and a 10-storey state-of-the-art apartment building.

The apartments will be 58sq m to 317sq m.

Peter Thompson, Barfoot & Thompson managing director, said Wynyard Quarter would be the future residential heart of the inner city.

"This precinct is undergoing a once-in-a-generation transformation from Tank Farm to metropolitan community, combining city, coastal and village lifestyles all in one place," Thompson said.

The location with proximity to the CBD and city fringe, wrap-around water views and the promise of a vibrant business and community centre, makes it unique in the apartment market, he said.

"This development will provide a style of inner-city living not seen in New Zealand before, and comparable to that on offer internationally," Thompson said.

- Wynyard Central
10-level block on Daldy/Madden St corner.
Ground-floor retail, 113 apartments, 157 carparks.
Starting price: about $550,000.
Designed by Architectus. Source: Willis Bond
- 132 Halsey:
7-level Halsey St block opposite waterfront.
Ground-floor retail, 51 apartments, 84 carparks.
Starting price: just under $2m.
Designed by Athfield Architects

See a Google Map showing the site here: