A plan to revitalise Takapuna's town centre is threatening to go horribly pear-shaped with locals, politicians and bureaucrats taking opposite positions and refusing to budge.
Barring delays, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff will step off a plane from Japan tomorrow and head to a public meeting in Takapuna organised to stop the sale and development of the Anzac St car park for a new town square.
Goff will be there to support two of his most loyal supporters, North Shore councillors Chris Darby and Richard Hills, who have put their necks on the line by endorsing plans by council's Panuku Development Auckland to sell much of the car park for private development.
There is a fear of change. Auckland is changing dramatically and for some communities that is too much
The plan is opposed in its current form by the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board and a group called Heart of Takapuna with widespread support from local residents.
The brouhaha has been bubbling along since last year, but become increasingly polarised in recent months with a new round of consultation by Panuku, claims of threatening tactics by council and billboards appearing on Esmonde Rd opposing the sale of the car park.
In a nutshell, Panuku plans to sell the Anzac St car park as part of its "Unlock" programme to build on the work at Wynyard Quarter and redevelop tired town centres, largely funded from the sale of local property and land.
A 3000sq m town square along the lines of Wynyard Quarter and Britomart will be developed on part of the 7800sq m car park site and 2500sq m of adjoining property the council owns on Hurstmere Rd.
The remaining land, less land required for laneways and new connections across the sites, will be sold to private developers for apartments, offices, shops, restaurants and cafes.
The 250 car parks will be moved to a new car parking building on the council-owned Gasometer site about 200m away in Huron St.
Using earlier feedback from about 2000 submissions, Panuku has come up with two options for a town square in a new round of consultation running until August 10.
One option locates the square between Lake and Hurstmere Rds with strong links from Shore City and the bus stops to the beach. The other options place the square alongside Potters Park and could be used for large events, especially in summer when the 3500sq m Potters Park could be used.
A third option of keeping the status quo would mean cancelling a $3m upgrade of the bus station alongside the car park and $4.8m of streetscape improvements in the area
On social media this week, Devonport-Takapuna Local Board member Grant Gillon said: "It is unfortunate that the Takapuna car park debate has been hijacked into a 'take it or leave it' threatening tactic.
He said the Local Board has been trying to mediate between the council and community where the main sticking points include the sale of public assets, the need for car parking on the site for the viability of businesses and enough space to keep the popular Sunday market.
Heart of Takapuna spokeswoman Ruth Jackson said the group is not trying to wrap Takapuna in a time warp.
She says the community is okay with Takapuna being zoned a metropolitan centre in the Unitary Plan with high rise apartment towers to cater for a three-fold increase in the number of homes over the next 30 years.
But Jackson says the council should not be on a "panic-stricken rush" to sell the public car park and leave a miserable strip of land for a town centre squeezed between nine-storey buildings.
"This is your obvious site to put your transport station. In our plan, public transport is key, open space is key and public parking is also key because that supports the local businesses," she says.
She is referring to the group's "fourth option", which would see car parking undergrounded on Anzac St and the full site turned into a mix of open spaces along the lines of a project in Melbourne called Cato Square.
Jackson says the cost of this option, including undergrounding, could be covered by selling the Gasometer site and council's buildings on Hurstmere Rd.
Panuku chief operating officer David Rankin said undergrounding the car parking is simply uneconomic and outside Auckland Transport's strategy of investing in new parking buildings.
Darby, who features in Panuku's video material on the project, said as work enters the crux point there is vociferous opposition and support in other parts of the community.
"This is going to be the test of whether council does proceed," said Darby, saying it will be politicians, not Panuku, who make the call.
The North Shore councillor said there is a reluctance for locals to accept change, citing the now much-loved Hurstmere Green and new children's playground at Takapuna Beach as products of initial opposition.
Other areas in the Unlock programme, like Henderson and Manukau, were willing to sell assets to improve their communities, while communities and Local Boards in Pukekohe, Papakura and Manurewa are thirsting to join the Unlock programme, Darby said.
He said Takapuna residents are engaged, which is good, but it's at the point where change poses risks.
"There is a fear of change. Auckland is changing dramatically and for some communities that is too much," Darby said.
Hills supports the vision, saying he would love to see more laneways, open civic space and connections between Potters Park on the northern end of the car park to the beach.
He, too, thinks it is going to be immensely difficult to satisfy everyone's needs when the suggestions contradict each other.
Terence Harpur, chief executive of the Takapuna Beach Business Association, says feedback from members show the overwhelming majority are in favour of the Anzac St development.
"This is seen by our members as critical to the ongoing viability and desirability of Takapuna, which we firmly believe has the potential to be the 'jewel in the metropolitan crown'," he said.
Harpur said the continued provision of parking is a concern and must for the association, which supports building a high-tech car park with electronic signage on the Gasometer site, making it easier for people to find a car park instead of driving around.
"It has been decades since Takapuna has been offered such an opportunity for council investment," he said.