Opponents of a $10 million plan to build a 90.3m-long concrete structure into Auckland's harbour filed 283 submissions but backers filed 44 submissions in support, many saying the concrete extensions were crucial to the city's infrastructure.

Commissioners began sitting last week in hearings on the controversial Queens Wharf cruise ship upgrade project. Plans would see concrete structures built into the Waitemata as docking for increasingly long cruise ships.

The extensions shown here are planned for Queens Wharf. Photo/Auckland Council
The extensions shown here are planned for Queens Wharf. Photo/Auckland Council

Panuku Development Auckland has applied for the wharf extensions, which it says are necessary to accommodate many of the larger cruise ships arriving in the city annually.

Kit Littlejohn, Trevor Mackie and Juliane Chetham heard the application in the council's ground-floor chambers.

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Panuku wants to build what it calls "dolphin" structures out from Queens Wharf's northern end but opponents saying calling them dolphins is misleading because they are far from friendly like some of the marine mammals.

The application has been notified and the council report on the hearing said 283 submissions opposed the plans, 44 supported it and one was neutral.

The extensions would provide mooring for vessels, giving a fixed gangway connection to Queens Wharf.

Panuku wants new moorings for cruise ships. Photo/Auckland Council
Panuku wants new moorings for cruise ships. Photo/Auckland Council

Submissions in support reflect the reasons for the application and cite the need to accommodate the increased berth requirements for larger cruise ships and to improve facilities for ship passengers and economic benefits from the new much-needed infrastructure.

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Opponents have cited adverse cultural, heritage, navigation, operational and visual effects, and disagree with the applicant's economic case.

Panuku wants to provide mooring for vessels of 362m via "mooring dolphins" at 49m and 82m from the existing wharf.

But a council assessment of the proposal by planning consultant Richard Blakey recommended the application be rejected, saying it would have more than minor adverse effects on the environment "particularly in respect of cultural, heritage, public amenity/recreation and visual effects."

Panuku's plans projected on the existing waterfront off Queens Wharf.
Panuku's plans projected on the existing waterfront off Queens Wharf.

The plans were also inconsistent with laws, policy statements and the Unitary Plan, his report said.

Paul Glass, a financier of Devon Funds Management, told the Herald this month he strongly opposed the concrete structures.

Panuku has cited the need to accommodate larger cruise ships. Photo/Jason Oxenham
Panuku has cited the need to accommodate larger cruise ships. Photo/Jason Oxenham

"Auckland's harbour is the city's most precious resource and needs to be protected - there has been too much infill already, which is turning our inner harbour into a tidal river. It is environmental vandalism, as are the port's new 82m high cranes which block views out to the islands and the proposed multi-story carpark," Glass said.

The structure was not needed, Glass said.

"On the few occasions that these very large cruise ships visit, they can continue to ferry passengers to shore as they do elsewhere in the world," Glass said.

Chair of Urban Auckland Julie Stout opposes the plans. Photo/Nick Reed
Chair of Urban Auckland Julie Stout opposes the plans. Photo/Nick Reed

Opponents' submissions decried further encroachment into the harbour, damage to marine mammals, said economic effects were overstated and that the structure would not be needed in the long term because the port would be "pushed out."

Supporters cited economic benefits, risks of not building the project, health and safety needs, benefits to Auckland as a key hub for the cruise industry and the poor visitor experience currently provided.

How the end of Queens Wharf looks now. Photo/Auckland Council
How the end of Queens Wharf looks now. Photo/Auckland Council

The method for building the new structures is described here.

Mayor Phil Goff supports the project which has disappointed a range of community and urban design groups, who want him to step back from increasing the industrialisation of Queens Wharf.

Heart of the City Auckland's submission is here.

Fullers opposes the project on the basis that the harbour will be narrowed, the dolphins will affect tidal flow, extend the 5-knot speed limit into the harbour and be a navigation hazard.

The report on the proposal noted claims that the project was planned for a "highly modified area of the waterfront" and the extent of the project would be minimised by the design and use of materials in keeping with the character of the area.

"The proposal is needed to safely berth extra-large cruise ships and avoid the need to tender passengers ashore which introduces risk to the health and safety of passengers," the report said.

Public access would be provided to a 36m portion of the gangway out to the mooring structure.