Opposition is growing to a large wharf expansion for the America's Cup, with fears it will cause lasting damage to the Waitemata Harbour.
The same groups who stopped further expansion of the harbour for port use are lobbying Auckland councillors ahead of a workshop today on options for the America's Cup syndicate bases.
"The time has passed for perpetual reclamation and wharf expansion to remedy short-term problems with long-term detrimental effects on the harbour," the Society for the Protection of Auckland Harbours and Stop Stealing Our Harbour said in a letter to councillors.
Councillors will be briefed on up to six options, including a proposal for a 3ha extension of Halsey Wharf - where the ANZ Viaduct Events Centre is - for as many as 10 bases. The cost has been put at between $80 million and $100m.
Other options include an extension of the northern breakwater at Westhaven Marina, Captain Cook Wharf near the port and dispersing the bases at several sites around Wynyard Quarter.
There is real urgency around making a decision and having the facilities built by mid-2019, when the first challenger syndicates arrive for the 2021 defence. Team New Zealand have a preference for all the teams based at one location.
These options are viable, less expensive and will have the support of the public
Stop Stealing Our Harbour spokesman Michael Goldwater said in the letter to councillors that hosting the America's Cup was a great opportunity for Auckland but plans to expand Halsey Wharf is an "ad hoc, ill-conceived and unimaginative concept that will not be accepted by the public".
Goldwater said the irony of extending Halsey Wharf is that the City of Sails could use the world's premier sailing event to further spoil its jewel in the crown - the Waitemata Harbour.
Architects Barry Copeland and David Mitchell are also opposed to the Halsey Wharf extension - Copeland calling it an "attempted robbery" of harbour views and access to the water.
Mitchell said Team New Zealand want an America's Cup village: "Well, we've got the village. We've developed it in the years since Team New Zealand was last here, and it runs all the way from the ferry wharves to Westhaven."
The opponents favour the options of extending the Westhaven Marina and dispersing the bases around at least three locations at Wynyard Quarter.
"These options are viable, less expensive and will have the support of the public," said Goldwater, saying a $100m wharf extension would cost each household about $100 and be a one-off.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff is keeping an open mind on all the options, but is interested in an infrastructure legacy for Auckland.
Councillor Chris Darby, who chairs the planning committee and will miss today's workshop because he is overseas, said a 3ha wharf extension would compromise 20ha of water space between Princes Wharf and Wynyard headland.
"I am a mad keen yachtie but firstly I value the Waitemata Harbour. At this stage I have not seen a strong argument on why we should extend Halsey Wharf. I also want the America's Cup to be in Auckland and for us to celebrate that," Darby said.
Waitemata and Gulf councillor Mike Lee said given all the other infrastructure needs of the city that are barely affordable, the city should be using existing facilities without damaging the harbour.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who is also Minister for Sport and Recreation , said in a statement : "We are consulting with Auckland Council on various options but haven't made any decisions. We have had a preliminary briefing from officials but are awaiting more information."
Team New Zealand could not be reached for comment.
Today's briefing will be held by officers from Auckland Council, Panuku Development Auckland and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, which have been drawing up options with government agencies, including the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.