The Government is seriously at odds with Auckland Council's decision today to build the America's Cup bases at Wynyard Basin, expressing strong concerns about wharf extensions into the harbour and pursuing a land-based solution.
The council voted to locate the bases around Wynyard Basin that involves a 75m extension to Halsey Wharf, a 75m extension to Hobson Wharf and a small extension on Wynyard Wharf.
Last month, David Parker, the minister in charge of the America's Cup, instructed council and Government officials to investigate an alternative land-based option to base the syndicates at Wynyard Point, the old Tank Farm site to the west of Wynyard Basin.
It is important that the events stacks up for ETNZ, taxpayers and Auckland ratepayers
In a statement released to the Herald today, Parker said the Government remains concerned about intrusions into the harbour and supports efforts to mitigate these.
"Therefore we have asked for further advice about the viability of the Wynyard Point option, particularly around whether the risks linked to hazardous substances can be appropriately mitigated, the likelihood of consent being granted in a timely manner and the relative cost for the Wynyard Point option," said Parker.
He was speaking from Argentina where he is attending a World Trade Organisation meeting as Minister of Trade.
At today's council meeting, Panuku Development design and place director Rod Marler said the Wynyard Point option posed a number of risks, including time delays due to complex lease negotiations, high costs due to the need to cease or move hazardous goods operators and not enough land and water space for eight team bases.
He said that "timing really is the critical issue", saying he could not stress how critical it is to getting a clear decision to lodge resource consent in January for a decision and construction to start in August.
The bases need to be built by the time teams arrive in Auckland at the back end of 2019, Marler said.
The Wynyard Basin decision carries a price tag of $124 million plus $18m to relocate tenants and landowners. The Wynyard Point option has been priced at $112m plus relocation costs of about $118m.
The council is also looking to spend a further $260 million on a range of waterfront and CBD projects for the 36th America's Cup and Apec events in 2021. Of this, $80m is budgeted and $180m has to be found in the new 10-year budget.
Mayor Phil Goff said he was not interested in making any contribution toward a hosting fee being sought by Team New Zealand, saying the council was making a big contribution to infrastructure.
Parker said the Government is aiming for final funding decisions in early 2018.
"We do not expect a decision on central Government funding to be wrapped up any earlier than this. Emirates Team New Zealand and Auckland Council are aware of this timeframe. It is important that the event stacks up for ETNZ, taxpayers and Auckland ratepayers.
"Decisions (including on any resource consent processes) will be made in plenty of time to enable the regatta to proceed in Auckland," Parker said.
At today's meeting, Goff said his first preference was for Wynyard Point and the latest variation would be examined in discussions with the Government.
"But when we have put our professional staff, both local council, council-controlled organisations and Government officials together...they have come back and said that we would be absolutely struggling to get a consent process through on time," Goff said.
Not all councillors supported the Wynyard Basin option.
Waitemata and Gulf Island councillor Mike Lee said the Government's option was sensible and sustainable and the council should not be deliberately dismissing it.
Manukau councillor Efeso Collins said he did not feel the same sense of urgency for the cup when the council was trying to address homelessness, which stood at 24,000 people with a budget of $500,000.
He voted against the America's Cup being hosted in Auckland, saying feedback from constituents questioned if the cup was just a rich man's sport.
Previous discussions on the cup stirred up a lot of nostalgia, Collins said, with people remembering going up Queen St in red socks.
"What about those who cannot afford red socks? What about those who are homeless and all we have committed to them is half a million dollars a year?" Collins said.
Said deputy mayor Bill Cashmore: "Who would not support the defence of the cup here in Auckland, the City of Sails. Who would not support the most viable option we have before us."
Stop Stealing Our Harbour spokesman Michael Goldwater said the Wynyard Basin option would obliterate harbour views from the waterfront promenade.
He questioned the "incredibly weak economic data" being used to support the ratepayer and taxpayer investment in the cup, saying the company being used had provided economic data on the cruise industry in Auckland that was 400 per cent more than official Statistics New Zealand data.
"Panuku Development Auckland also has a vested interest as a developer for extending wharves into the harbour. We remain unconvinced they are putting forward unbiased advice," Goldwater said.
Last month, Auckland Council narrowed down the base location for the 36th America's Cup to a land-based option on Wynyard Point and Wynyard Wharf known as the Wynyard Point option, or an extension to Halsey Wharf and Hobson Wharf along with bases on Wynyard Wharf known as the Wynyard Basin option.
Both Team New Zealand and Auckland Council have previously signalled support for the Wynyard Basin option.
The Wynyard Point option would still involve a 74m extension to Hobson Wharf to accommodate one double base, but only a 15m extension of Halsey Wharf for two single bases, compared a 75m extension to four double bases under Wynyard Basin option.