Getting rid of Japanese steel handrails, a floating pontoon, eight palm trees and deferring ferry and bus terminal upgrades has netted Auckland Council more than $6 million as they rapidly rein in their America's Cup infrastructure projects.
As the first Christmas regatta event in the America's Cup racing schedule is bearing down on December 15, Auckland Council have scratched off some of the more demanding construction features of the $350m Downtown Programme.
A memo was provided to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and some Auckland councillors by council staff overseeing the project on November 16.
The most dramatic construction halt is to Auckland CBD's ferry terminal redevelopment, saving $5.2m.
Upgrades to the ferry terminal toilets, new entrance, HOP card ticket gates and bike racks have all been stopped.
Auckland councillor and planning committee chairman Chris Darby said, "In the face of budgets savaged by the impacts of Covid-19, we've had to bite the bullet and make modest changes to some projects.
"When revenues look healthier, we'll be back on deck to complete.
"The design tweaks to the Te Wananga [Downtown public square] and Quay St carefully maintain the integrity and quality of these highly anticipated public space projects.
"For the Ferry Basin Development and lower Albert St, we've pushed pause on some elements."
New bus shelters on both sides of lower Albert St and street furniture on Quay St have also been halted.
A saving of $400,000 is also being made by changing the material of handrails from imported weathered steel to locally sourced mild steel, as well as a reduction in glass.
A pontoon to "showcase marine ecology" that was to float in the harbour just off the downtown water fence line was also cancelled because it was "unable to meet the safety requirements" and had the potential to balloon in cost.
A $1m saving has come, in part, from not purchasing eight nikau palm trees and associated tree pits for outside the ferry building.
The memo from Auckland Transport's Eric Van Essen and council's Jenny Larking explained the need for the $6.6m total savings as "additional costs resulting from Covid-19 are required to be absorbed within the existing programme budget".
Auckland councillor Desley Simpson said she "commended" the entire team working on the Downtown Programme to deliver something in time for the December 15 America's Cup race given the challenges.
"The complete project was challenging enough without adding Covid to it and a deadline to America's Cup which has meant there are a lot of people scrambling to make the city as presentable as possible to a deadline that can't change," Simpson said.
"It was always going to be challenging but then you add a Covid no-work-zone period to the deadline."
Simpson said Auckland councillors "don't make the decisions" on what construction features of the Downtown Programme were to be scrapped.
"From my perspective it's their call," Simpson said.
"They've worked incredibly hard and it's a huge challenge to try to get the city presentable to the world stage."
Darby also foreshadowed in the coming weeks the opening of the six public space upgrades that made up the Downtown Programme, adding they were looking stunning.
"The new and lively Galway St shared space enables an easy summer stroll from the Britomart precinct through the new lower Queen St public space to Commercial Bay and the Waitematā waterfront, capturing city delights along the way," Darby said.
"This coming Friday we will cut the ribbon on new parks in the Wynyard Quarter, and a fortnight later the construction barriers come down to reveal the grand public square on lower Queen St. And there's more to come in the new year."