The way motorists drive through central Auckland is about to change to create more space on the waterfront for pedestrians and cyclists in time for the America's Cup in 2021.

Details of a $268m programme of waterfront projects will be unveiled in the coming weeks, including reducing Quay St from four lanes of traffic to two at the city end.

The aim is to drastically reduce the number of vehicles and slow traffic using the two-lane section of Quay St between Lower Hobson St and Commerce St.

People love the waterfront and also know there are places that are beautiful and parts that need attention

City-bound traffic will be diverted to Customs St, where buses will be removed to improve traffic flow, and through traffic will be encouraged to bypass the city centre via The Strand and up Grafton Gully to the motorways.


Currently, about 24,000 vehicles a day use Quay St. The goal is to reduce this figure to 14,000 vehicles.

A report prepared for the City Centre Advisory Board says the impact of the new roading system during a rebuild of the seawall along Quay St will be considerable and the reduction in capacity will be permanent.

"The reconfiguration of Quay St from four general traffic lanes to two will necessitate behaviour change by motorists who drive through the city centre," says the report.

Plans to upgrade Quay St have been around for years, but it appears the America's Cup and funding in the new 10-year budget will lead to a major makeover of the waterfront on this occasion.

As well as turning much of Quay St into a people-friendly boulevard, there are plans for a downtown public space within the ferry basin, partly funded with a $27m compensation package for the sale of nearby Queen Elizabeth Square to Precinct Properties for its $940m Commercial Bay tower and shopping mall on the old Downtown Shopping Centre site.

Preliminary images of the ferry basin public space show pohutukawa trees planted in a shelf over the water, pods suspended over water and steps leading down to the water's edge.

A new bus interchange will also be built on Quay St between Commerce St and Britomart Place to bring people to the downtown area without entering the pedestrian-focused waterfront area, and there are plans to complete the upgrade to Galway St within the Britomart precinct.

The report says further changes are planned in the future as part of building light rail - a modern day version of trams - on Customs St, which could include changing the Hobson St flyover to a single lane in either direction.


The first designs for Quay St are due to be made public in coming weeks with the aim of starting work, likely to be on the seawall costing tens of millions of dollars, late this year or early next.

Heart of the City chief executive Vic Beck.
Heart of the City chief executive Vic Beck.

Heart of the City chief executive Vic Beck, who chairs the advisory board, said the aspiration was to make Quay St a fantastic area for people.

"People love the waterfront and also know there are places that are beautiful and parts that need attention," she said.

Beck acknowledged the difficulties of diverting traffic away from the waterfront, but said as public transport gets better, more people will think differently about how they come into the city.

Orakei councillor Desley Simpson.
Orakei councillor Desley Simpson.

Orakei councillor Desley Simpson said reducing the number of lanes on Quay St would create a bottleneck.

The key issue, she said, was to provide an alternative east-west route for through traffic before Quay St is narrowed.