Team NZ is pressing the Auckland Council for a decision of the location of the America's Cup defence by next week. The syndicate is said to favour an extension to Halsey Wharf beyond the Viaduct Events Centre but opponents of further reclamation of the harbour say it would be the wrong option, and they have a point.

Because the short Halsey Wharf lies between the much longer Wynyard and Princes wharves an extension might not look unduly intrusive on paper, but stand on the end of Princes or Wynyard wharves - or look down when crossing the Harbour Bridge - and it is immediately obvious how this proposal would change the western waterfront.

Extending Halsey Wharf by 220m would make it about as long as Wynyard and Princes, and building a breakwater most of the way to Princes Wharf, as proposed, would enclose most of the basin between Wynyard and Princes. Visually, the end of all the wharves would be the new waterfront.

That would mean not only the loss of 3ha of water space but the loss of Wynyard Pt where once the city imagined erecting a structure as iconic as the Sydney Opera House which stands on a similar harbour promontory.


The idea of establishing something more stunning than storage tanks on the Wynyard reclamation should not abandoned. In fact it could be a legacy of this second America's Cup tenure if space can be found on that reclamation for some of the syndicates that may attend.

If 10 syndicates turn up, they could be accommodated on several sites on the existing wharves. That would not be ideal from Team NZ's point of view, which wants to centralise all facilities for teams, media, visitors and sponsors. But its preferred Halsey Wharf extension would probably be taken up with sheds and working areas for the teams.

Team NZ forgets, perhaps, that it still benefits from the legacy of the first America's Cup tenure. The Viaduct Basin may have lost its syndicate bases but they have made way for an enlarged public waterfront precinct as part of the Wynyard Quarter development. The restaurants, bars, entertainments and public plazas of the Viaduct and the Wynyard Quarter's North Wharf will be the centre of social life for the next America's Cup no matter where in the vicinity the syndicates are based.

Mayor Phil Goff favours dispersing the bases between Wynyard Pt, the existing Halsey Wharf and Hobson Wharf, occupied by the Maritime Museum. That option would not only avoid significant further intrusion on the harbour but it would be $31m cheaper than extending Halsey Wharf at a cost of $190m.

Goff wants the Government to contribute most of the cost since it will gain most of the revenue from spending by visiting teams and supporters. Economic Development Minister David Parker says a Government contribution would depend on an environmental assessment. That would probably count against the Halsey Wharf extension.

So if Team NZ want a decision quickly they should probably declare no preference. And if they are so wedded to the idea of Halsey Wharf that they would take the cup to Tauranga or even Italy instead, so be it.