By WAYNE THOMPSON

Henderson is to get a "son of Britomart" under a proposal for a new civic centre that includes a redeveloped railway station and a bus and taxi interchange.

The Waitakere City Council yesterday approved an initial design for the civic centre, to be built in Henderson Valley Rd, and a transport interchange, which will be across the railway line in Railside Ave.

Glass airbridges will link the new council offices and downtown area to the interchange.

Close at hand will be a proposed new Unitec campus and city central library, in Railside Ave and Ratanui St.

All the projects - which could cost ratepayers up to $30 million - are expected to open in three years.

Mayor Bob Harvey said the proposal was really "the son of Britomart".

"We unveiled it as a transport centre, not as a council chamber."

Trains would go under the building, which would contain shops, cafes, an art gallery and performance arts bases, making Henderson the centre of Waitakere City, he said.

The revitalisation of the suburb is expected to come from a Unitec campus of 2000 students, the central library, and relocated council offices with 600 staff and 55,000 visitors a year.

Architectus and Athfield Architects developed the design concept, which Mr Harvey said was "a triumph of smart planning and thinking".

"We are unveiling it to the community and think they will really applaud the idea."

Mr Harvey said the council was overwhelmingly behind the idea.

Two of the 14 members of the council, Vanessa Neeson and Derek Battersby, opposed the plans.

Mr Battersby said he doubted the project would succeed on that site because the design team had not overcome the obstacle of the railway corridor, which was like a "Berlin Wall".

The building was neither car-friendly nor people-friendly, and he was against the council moving from its present premises.

The council decided last year to shift closer to Henderson than its present building off Lincoln Rd, which is a busy commercial area.

Council chief executive Harry O'Rourke said last March that the council's operations were spread over seven buildings and bringing them all under one roof would save about $1.6 million a year.

The council bought the former Carter Holt Harvey premises in Henderson Valley Rd, saying a civic centre there would be closer to public transport routes, have more parking and be easier for people to reach.

The civic centre would take up a third of the site and the rest will be developed by the council's property arm, Waitakere Properties, incorporating apartments, commercial buildings and possibly a hotel.

The net cost was estimated at $25.5 million to $29.5 million - after deducting the sale or development of the 2ha by Waitakere Properties and the sale of the present council building in Waipareira Ave, which has a $4 million rating valuation.

Mr Harvey said the council did not own the rail sidings needed for the site and was talking to Tranz Rail. He reported a "positive response" to a transport hub from funding bodies the Auckland Regional Transport Network and Auckland Regional Council.

The library is a $11.3 million joint venture between the council and Unitec.

"Son of Britomart"

What: A new civic centre, including a redeveloped railway station and a bus and taxi interchange.

Where: Henderson Valley Rd and Railside Ave, Henderson.

When: Opening in 2006.

How much: Estimated cost to ratepayers is $25.5 million to $29.5 million, once Waitakere City Council sells or develops other properties.

For: "A triumph of smart planning and thinking" - Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey.

Against: Split by rail corridor "like a Berlin Wall" - councillor Derek Battersby.

Herald Feature: Getting Auckland moving

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