Aucklanders are being urged to get to the waterfront early for the Rugby World Cup opening night extravaganza to avoid being turned away.

The celebrations are limited to 50,000 people, including room for 15,000 at party central on Queens Wharf, which people will get to see for the first time on opening night.

Auckland Council chief executive Doug McKay is encouraging downtown companies to let staff leave work early so they can join the festivities and relieve congestion in the central city. About 3500 council staff based in the central city will be allowed to leave work before 3pm.

As well as tens of thousands of people heading to the waterfront, 60,000 will be going to Eden Park for the opening ceremony and first Cup match, between the All Blacks and Tonga.


"Getting out of the CBD at peak time on September 9 will mean negotiating very heavy traffic and sharing public transport with thousands of Aucklanders and visitors from the early afternoon," said Mr McKay.

The 10-hour opening night programme costing $2.7 million will mean the closure of several streets, including Quay St as far as Britomart Place, from 10pm on September 8 to 4am on September 10. Streets between Quay St and Customs St East, including the Britomart precinct, will also be closed.

There will be limited access to some of the streets from 10pm on September 8 to midday on September 9.

The waterfront programme begins at 4pm when 20 carved waka each propelled by 30 paddlers will sail into the Viaduct Harbour. This will be followed by a mass haka by the 600 waka paddlers and an 80-minute concert by the Finn Brothers on Queens Wharf.

Big screens will line the waterfront and Queens Wharf to show what is going on, including the build-up at Eden Park.

A 20-minute opening ceremony at Eden Park will lead up to the main spectacle - a 12-minute fireworks and lighting show. Organisers said it would be New Zealand's biggest pyrotechnics display, and landmarks and tall buildings around Auckland would be used for lighting displays.

The evening will also be Aucklanders' first opportunity to see first-hand what all the fuss has been about on Queens Wharf with the $9.8 million Cloud, the refurbished Shed 10 and other facilities, including a large outdoor stage at the northeast end of the wharf that will be the main venue for more than 40 New Zealand bands and musicians during the cup.

A fence is being erected on the eastern side of the wharf and on busy days, the northern and western sides of the wharf will be fenced and monitored to prevent people jumping or falling into the Waitemata Harbour.


Organisers have plans to control numbers on the wharf, which are limited to 15,000, including 6000 in the Cloud and 2000 in Shed 10, which will feature live music every night.

For people who do not make it to the waterfront, prime spots for viewing the fireworks are at Bayswater, Mt Victoria and the Devonport waterfront on the North Shore and the Parnell Rose Gardens and Bastion Pt in the eastern suburbs.