Bureaucrats held noses when asked for CBD bus terminal but guess who pays bill if wharf plan proceeds?

Auckland Council bureaucrats have a strange set of priorities. When it's providing something useful for Aucklanders like a CBD bus terminal, they hold their noses and turn the other way. Nasty stinky buses destroy the waterfront ambiance we're told.

When their plans to boot inter-city buses down to Manukau City was foiled, the bureaucrats' parting shot was, if the bus operators want a new CBD intercity terminal, they'd have to find the land and pay for it themselves!

How different it is if you're a mega-rich superyacht owner, or the operator of huge cruise ships. For them, the bureaucrats go into bat, not once, but over and over again. They're like rust, gnawing away at our inner harbour, despite the widespread opposition of the ordinary folk - the bus users.

The details of the latest wharf expansion proposal will be revealed to councillors tomorrow, but I can safely predict that unlike the bus operators, there will be no demand for the billionaire cruise ship and super-yacht owners to dig into their pockets and fund their new prime parking spots. It'll be the bus passengers again, through their rates, or indirectly via the council-owned port company.


In last year's mayoral election, Mayor Phil Goff was firmly opposed to further wharf expansion. Yet the proposal going to councillors tomorrow revives a plan pushed by former mayor Len Brown in the 2010 election to create a cruise ship terminal on Captain Cook Wharf - the wharf immediately east of Queen St - by extending it 100m into the harbour. The following year, Mr Brown changed his mind on learning that buying the wharf off Ports of Auckland, extending it, and building a terminal, would cost ratepayers $200 million.

Tomorrow's proposal has the bureaucrats wanting to also add a 60 - 80m extension to the Halsey St wharf to provide handy CBD parking spaces for superyachts while their multi-millionaire owners helicopter off to their luxurious private retreats around the country. I'm guessing that muggins the bus passenger will be paying for this as well, as we did in 2013, when ratepayers funded the $18.6 million transformation of Shed 10 on Queens Wharf into a cruise ship terminal. And let's not forget the $4.1 million in annual wharf operating costs ratepayers fork out on top of that.

All of these gifts are made by the bureaucrats to the Great God of Tourism. If we bow deep enough, and empty our pockets just a little bit more, prosperity will be our reward.

Mayor Phil Goff is currently discovering what happens to those who break the faith and suggest the great God dig into her own pocket. The screams of anguish from the industry - accommodation owners in particular - at his plan that instead of lumbering the bus passengers with the council's annual $27m - $30m bill for tourist promotion, that those who directly benefit should pay the lot, shows how embedded this false religion has become.

Worse, like dairying, the twin backbone of our economy, we're told tourism is now so important, we're supposed to turn a blind eye to its short-comings. Yet with unbridled dairying, has come the widespread degradation of our rivers and streams - effectively sabotaging the tourist promotion message pushing the purity of the natural landscape.

The International tourist boom, numbers up from 3 million last year to 4.5 million in 2022, is not just threatening to bleed Auckland ratepayers and despoil the inner harbour, it also has the protectors of our natural wilderness worried the explosion will overwhelm the wilderness they came to enjoy.

Conservation Department director-general Lou Sanson says when he took the United States ambassador on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing last year, that "every time we stopped we were surrounded by 40 people. That is not my New Zealand".

He wants to ration numbers by starting to charge users of Great Walks, say $100 for foreigners and $40 for New Zealanders. An added bonus to such a regime would be to relieve taxpayers from part of the burden of maintaining these treasures.

The dairying explosion highlights how easy it is for the wider community to end up with a huge collateral damage bill, while the industry siphons in the profits.

Auckland bureaucrats seem determined to repeat the same mistake.