Flashes of Sydney, London and volcanic Auckland are among the creative ideas to redevelop Queens Wharf for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

There's a giant ferris wheel to rival the London Eye, a row of giant sails resembling the Sydney Opera House, a series of volcanic cones or mountain peaks and a taniwha rising out of the Waitemata Harbour.

The first stage of a design competition has attracted 232 entries from children to acclaimed architects. Later this month the entries will be whittled down to five designs and three team entries to find an overall winner.

Entrants had to include a cruise ship terminal, open space and ideas for the cup. Apartments, hotels, offices and large-scale retail facilities were banned. The two 1912 dock sheds could stay or go.

The entries went on display yesterday to coincide with an open day at the historic wharf. The "Red Gates", which block public access to much of Auckland's waterfront, were opened by Prime Minister John Key with help from Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee and Auckland City Mayor John Banks.

Members of the public were invited to view the wharf before its overhaul, and the sheds that could form a part of the final design.

The Government and the regional council each paid $20 million to buy the wharf from Ports of Auckland. Auckland City Council is paying most of the $74 million redevelopment cost, which still faces a $16 million shortfall.

Architect Mario Madayag, who won the design competition for the nearby Britomart transport terminal in 2000, described the Queens Wharf competition as an opportunity of a lifetime.

"The challenge of the brief is what can you practically achieve in two years.There is a bigger ambition here.

"Right now it is limited by the money they have in place, but the potential of the site is so much more," Mr Madayag said.

Architect Barry Copeland, whose firm has designed a giant veranda with a wave motif, said the competition had attracted lots of good ideas.

"The two big camps are people who have swept it all away for something completely new or decided to work with what is there on the wharf."

The entries are on show at the Union Fish Company Building at 116 Quay St until October 24.

* queenswharf.org.nz