Auckland Council's decision-making process about how and where Auckland will host the next America's Cup event prioritises opening up future private development opportunities over delivering a public open space legacy.

In delegating the America's Cup options selection process to Panuku (a Council Controlled Organisation), the council has in effect ruled out options that prioritise the production of good public open space once the America's Cup event is over.

This is because Panuku is required by its statement of corporate intent to open up new development opportunities, and to dispose and acquire properties and contribute to Auckland Council's asset sales targets.

Panuku's main financial performance target is to meet or exceed $100 million in unconditional sales annually.


The public debate over event hosting needs to be informed by what happened in the past, so mistakes are not repeated and public opinion is respected.

New Zealand-backed teams won the America's Cup in 1995, 2000 and 2017. When the America's Cup was lost in 2003 the Auckland public were consulted over what to do with the syndicate bases that became surplus in Viaduct Basin. These included Alinghi and Team NZ bases.

A 2005 survey by Auckland City Council and Auckland Regional Council attracted 1000 responses from across the region and indicated 77 per cent supported or strongly supported conversion to open public space, while 63 per cent strongly opposed or opposed residential, commercial or office development.

If a similar survey was conducted today, given the public interest in good quality waterfront public spaces such as have been constructed from North Wharf through to Silo Park at Wynyard Quarter, I would anticipate even stronger support for more good quality public open space on the waterfront.

Interestingly, despite the 2005 survey findings, the Viaduct yacht base land has since been sold by Auckland Council to developers intending to build a luxury hotel.

Panuku is recommending a $190m extension to Halsey Wharf as the best option to host syndicate bases, and, while mentioning the word "legacy", it does not explain to council decision-makers how poorly that structure would perform as open public space.

The efforts and experiences of waterfront cities around the world all show that piled wharf and jetty structures are unsafe for use by families, and by their nature are exposed to coastal winds.

And when buildings have been developed on wharves partly to provide shelter, they often block views that have been enjoyed across the wharf space and create private areas which are out of bounds to the public.


Wharves, however, do create development opportunities. The Hilton Hotel on Princes Wharf is a glaring example of the kind of dominating wharf development that could potentially be built on an extended Halsey Wharf after the next America's Cup regatta.

Panuku's extended Captain Cook option suffers the same planning shortcomings. The argument that syndicate bases could then be in the heart of Auckland CBD ignores what was evident at Bermuda - that by far the greatest interest was in viewing actual races rather than trying to look into security conscious bases.

I don't know why Panuku has excluded from its list of options derelict Tankfarm land at Wynyard Quarter.

The debit side of developing Tankfarm land are the existing leases and the fact the underlying soil is contaminated, but the credit side is a reclamation with great views up and down the Waitemata Harbour and of the Harbour Bridge, and it is safe for families.

This piece of public infrastructure needs to be reclaimed from its industrial past and restored, rather than reclaiming valuable enclosed Viaduct water space.

The America's Cup event provides the opportunity to invest in the next stage of Tankfarm Headland Park development, clean it up, get rid of some of the tanks, provide temporary sites for syndicate bases, all the while working toward the long-term vision of more waterfront public spaces like those elsewhere on Wynyard Quarter.

In Australia this sort of public infrastructure investment would be justified by the federal Government because the additional revenues from GST and increased GDP derived from hosting the America's Cup would benefit central government.

The Auckland Council needs to work with the Government, perhaps legislated by another America's Cup Empowering Act, to get the best out of this opportunity in the long term for all of Auckland.

• Joel Cayford is an urban planner and former Auckland Regional Council member.