Aucklanders are about to discover a whole new world of central city plazas, lunch spots and walkways hidden from public view.

For years, property developers have set aside public space in exchange for bonus floor space, but too often have forgotten about their public obligations once the buildings were completed.

Now the Super City's Waitemata Local Board wants building owners to clearly define publicly accessible open spaces, including a viewing platform at the Hilton Hotel end of Princes Wharf, an observation deck in the former BNZ Tower on Queen St, a lawn in Beaumont Quarter and several pedestrian paths.

Beautifully designed plazas in the PWC Tower and Vero Centre, with artworks and comfortable seating, are public spaces but mostly used by office workers and their visitors.

Waitemata board chairman Shale Chambers said there was no requirement for developers to signpost open spaces for public access.

"This board has moved to ensure these public spaces are clearly publicised and uniformly signposted, ensuring access and enjoyment for residents and visitors to the city centre."

Mr Chambers said the concept of providing bonus floor space in exchange for public open space was seen as a "win-win" in the central area district plan.

A tour by the Herald of some of the public spaces found few access problems, but also few signs.

The exception was the former BNZ Tower in Queen St, owned by the Sultan of Brunei and undergoing a refit.

A sign by the lift said access to the deck was available only by ticket from the management office on the lower ground floor. There is no access at present.

Yesterday, Stefan Winstanley, the asset manager for the Vero Centre in Shortland St, said the building had no signs but the public were welcome to visit the lobby and outdoor foyer, hold meetings, have a cup of coffee and enjoy the artwork.

The public spaces contain several large artworks and smaller craft works with a Pacific feel.

Matthew Hockey, building manager for the Lumley Centre in Shortland St, said he was dealing with the Auckland Council on public access through the building to Fort St, which gives commuters a short cut to Britomart.

He said consent conditions required public access up to 11pm on Saturday, creating security concerns.

The Australian owners, Dexus Property Group, had applied to the council to consider changing the hours of public access to 8am to 6pm. Once a decision was made, signs would go up.

SkyCity, which has no signs to tell people about its escalators and lifts to go between Federal and Albert Sts, is happy to put up signs.

"SkyCity believes the public should be made aware of shared spaces," said hotel and facilities general manager Simon Jamieson. "We've been working with the Auckland Council to develop suitable signs for the access way through the convention centre."

In 2005, a long legal battle over a viewing platform accessed through the Hilton Hotel ended when the Environment Court ruled the hotel had to keep gates to the deck open until 11.30pm.

CBD residents' advisory group chairman Tim Coffey said the central city was short of recreation facilities for a residential population of about 25,000.

"Anything that increases the public domain is wonderful."