A couple of years back, Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy went all New Age on us, and ordered an annual "statement of imagination" report, portraying his vision of the perfect transport system.

Just how AT's plan to base Auckland's intercity bus service in the depths of Manukau City fits into that dreamscape is hard to fathom.

It's going to be more nightmare than perfection, to many of the 500,000 passengers who use the long distance bus services to and from Auckland each year.

Instead of your intercity bus service terminating in the CBD, as in any other city I can think of, AT wants to banish bus travellers 24km out of town next to a branch railway station.


It's bonkers. After being stuck in a bus for X number of hours, tourists, both local and overseas, who make up 55 per cent of users, are supposed to uncurl themselves, dig out their bags, and struggle onto a commuter train to downtown Auckland. Then find their way to a backpackers or their hotel.

Local Aucklanders, who make up about 45 per cent of passengers, will have the option of arranging alternative forms of pick-up.

Apart from the inconvenience, bus operators say the additional train fare will add up to $10 to the average long distance fare of $25.

And all, apparently, because SkyCity wants to rid itself of the long distance bus terminus it's been forced to host in its Hobson St basement as a condition of its original resource consent dating back to 1992.

Brierley Investments' original plan was to build a casino south of the cemetery in Symonds St. But a protected volcanic viewshaft from the harbour to Mt Eden stood in the way of the tower.

Auckland City, which owned the present Hobson St casino site, offered Brierleys a deal. It would swap the Hobson St site if Brierleys agreed to incorporate a long distance bus station - which the land had been designated for, but the city council had never got round to building.

This is why Auckland's long distance bus station is currently buried in the bowels of a private casino with little or no sign-posting to help passengers find it.

Recent internal council correspondence indicates SkyCity is still bound by this resource consent. Yet AT seems determined to walk away from it anyway.


In a letter to bus operators before Christmas, AT's bus supremo Mark Lambert said it had investigated seven alternative CBD locations but none met the required "criteria".

Lambert said that of sites outside the CBD considered, including Panmure, New Lynn, Papatoetoe, Papakura and Otahuhu, Manukau was the best, offering "a high quality experience for all our customers".

The problem with Dr Levy's "statement of imagination" is that in a city where the vast majority of commutes are made in buses, the boffins and the politicians have long failed to create a CBD bus terminus for either local or long distance passengers.

Instead, they try and make do by clogging the streets at the bottom of town, creating a diesel-fumed evening hell-hole, for one and all.

We did have a CBD bus station once. Built in 1937, it was bowled in 2001 to make way for the fancy boutiques and eateries of the Britomart property redevelopment. The plan at the time was to build an underground bus station below the new train station.

But complaints from bus operators about the time it would take buses to get in and out of their new home gave the politicians the excuse to save money and scrap the bus half of the Britomart transport station project.

Since then the renaissance of public transport has just highlighted the short-sightedness of this decision - and the lack of a CBD bus station.

Luckily there is a solution. And it's publicly owned, so it won't break the bank. It's the port land east of Queens Wharf and possibly, the city end of Marsden Wharf.

Of course there is the under-used Rugby World Cup eye-sore, The Cloud on Queens Wharf. It already has weather proofing in place for commuters.

But the wharf space next to Quay St between the two wharves is closer for commuters, and less controversial. It could be easily roofed and adapted. Sitting alongside the ferry and train terminals, it's the obvious solution.