A waterfront stadium, night mayor, downtown police station and free parking are among ideas from Auckland mayoral hopefuls to get the central city back on its feet.
There's no shortage of suggestions from the eight men and one woman vying to be mayor of the Super City.
Among the top contenders bidding to replace Phil Goff and become just the third mayor of the Super City, Viv Beck, Wayne Brown and Leo Molloy want to get on and free up port land to the public.
Manukau councillor Efeso Collins, who has been endorsed by the Labour and Green parties, giving him a clear run on the left, wants urgent investment in youth workers to stop young people committing crime.
Some candidates are calling for the reopening of a police station in the central city with reports of crime rising by 36 per cent, blamed in part on the arrival of Australian deportees and anti-social behaviour by people needing emergency housing.
There are calls for a concerted effort from Auckland Council and City Rail Link Ltd to clean up the city, take away the rubbish and road cones and address graffiti. Wayne Brown would limit the contractors building an underground train station on Albert St to a 3m wide strip to free up space for vehicles and pedestrians.
Restaurateur Molloy wants to build a 50,000 waterfront stadium with an adjoining cultural centre and aquatic facility, and Heart of the City chief executive Beck loves the idea of a night mayor to ignite the city after hours.
On a light note, Hibiscus and Bay Local Board chairman Gary Brown said his kids suggested a giant slide down Queen Street with off-chutes funnelling users onto bouncy castles, into foam pits and toward enclosures of fluffy kittens.
Michael Morris, of Animal Justice Auckland, the forerunner to an Animal Justice Party to contest next year's general elections, wants to replace concrete in the city centre with greenery to attract birds and other native life.
Plans by the mayoral candidates to revitalise the central city
A night mayor, which cities like Amsterdam have appointed, is on the radar for the chief executive of Heart of the City.
Before Covid, she said, the night-time economy was worth around $1 billion across the region - and it's not just about bars and nightlife. It supports arts, entertainment and hospitality, provides shift workers with meals and gyms when they finish work and creates safer spaces with more people out and about.
A night mayor could recognise that different policies are needed to support trading at night and ensure transport, lighting and safety needs are met.
"Let's bring back vibrancy" is another catch cry from Beck, saying events and festivals have proven through Covid to be a successful way to support artists and musicians and bring people out when restrictions are eased.
Beck also wants big improvements to the waterfront.
"While not a priority right now for many people struggling to make ends meet, it could be even better if we bring an iconic landmark to reality on the land occupied by the port. This did wonders for Bilbao and it's hard to imagine Sydney without the Opera House. I'd love to see people get excited about the potential and get in behind a vision for this area," Beck said.
"In the meantime, we need to extract maximum value from Ports of Auckland and set a time limit - I'd give 10 years - to have a viable alternative for the port in place. The land must remain in public ownership and deliver a much higher return for Aucklanders."
"Don't do vanilla. Don't be bland. Be bold," says Brown, chairman of the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board.
Hence, the idea from his kids for a giant slide down Queen St.
From a personal perspective, Brown is not overly focused on the central city. Instead, he wants each quadrant of the Super City - north, east, west and south, to focus on its strengths and "be unique chambers of a beating heart".
Local boards are pivotal in that and have a part to play in returning the CBD to its former glory, says Brown.
"Let's green-up and create distinct precincts for food, arts, cultural appreciation, sport and leisure pursuits. We can encourage pop-up stores for the myriad empty shops, including a pop-up cop shop to co-ordinate a CBD safety programme to ensure downtowners are kept safe. That includes more CCTV cameras and police on the beat," Brown said.
In keeping with his mantra as a 'Mr Fix It', the businessman and former Far North District mayor has a plan to fix the central city.
Covid, crime and endless construction have made downtown a no-go area, says Brown, who has a three-pronged solution - get the council to clean up the mess, make Aucklanders and visitors feel safe again, and get the city moving.
"We need to literally clean up the streets. Rubbish, road cones and graffiti must go.
"We need to prioritise finishing the projects we have started. We don't need more delays. We certainly don't need any more Think Big projects down Queen St that destroy inner-city businesses in the name of saving them," Brown said.
He wants to restrict contractors to a 3m wide access strip and take down the fences to allow vehicles and pedestrians to use the streets again. And better and properly monitored CCTV cameras and a return to the police station downtown: "It's a no brainer."
Another plan is to peel back the red gates and open more of the harbour to people.
The Labour councillor's mayoralty campaign is focused around hope and pride as Auckland emerges from the ravages of Covid.
His flagship policy of free public transport and improving public transport will certainly make it easier for people to come and go from the central city - and whoever becomes mayor may get to open the City Rail Link, due for completion in 2025.
Collins wants the central city to be more of a social centre based around the arts, concerts and culture - and connecting the 40,000 people who make the area home.
"That's what strengthens community and connection," said Collins, who wants to use a targeted rate on central city businesses to better market the area and improve local development.
"If the inner city is more of a social centre, that'll help our businesses as people come in for a meal or coffee or weekend activity," he said.
The co-leader of the New Conservative Party and lawyer said the central city is the epitome of Auckland Council's incompetence and Auckland Transport's disruption of traffic.
The inconvenience of low-quality public transport has crippled the central city, he says, adding no one wants to add an extra two or three hours just to shop there.
"You cannot get people into the CBD until you make it easier to get into the city. You upgrade the rail transport network to the city, unblock the roads and make parking free," Johnston said.
He rejects the suggestion from Auckland Central MP Chloe Swarbrick of removing cars from Queen St.
"You don't force people out of cars, you make people want to leave their cars behind. But that will only occur if you provide a convenient, efficient option."
The born and raised Aucklander, anti-politically correct mayoral candidate has a broad brush of policies around ongoing rate hikes, compliance, delays, over-regulation and waste by the council.
"I frankly believe the older Auckland was far more liveable, safer, rated fairer and less bother when dealing with council. My job as mayor will be to get back much of what we lost," Lehmann said.
When it comes to central city-specific policies, Lehmann wants to work with faith-based groups and charities to get homeless off the streets and offer unused council buildings.
A major crackdown on crime and working with business, not against it, are other policies.
The freelance media operator, who came third in the mayoral contest in 2019, takes the view of "let's ask Aucklanders" what they believe the issues are for the central city.
"I have, and the responses haven't shocked me, in fact, they are glaringly obvious," Lord said.
"We have to acknowledge that times have changed, we all get that, but more so for the CBD than anywhere else in the Super City - because Covid has shown us that it is no longer a central business district.
"The days of heading to Queen St for a shopping adventure are well and truly over."
Lord said a CBD is meant to be the hub of any city, its heart, where people flock to hang out so we can't abandon it.
Lord's solution is to turn the central city into a civic district.
"You can't force a CBD landlord to demolish or remodel their property to make way for civic activities, but if we come up with some great ideas then they may rethink their business plan.
"A Civic District, a place to visit again as a special trip, an entertainment hub. What about a sports stadium at Victoria Park? The Viaduct, Silo Park and Wynyard Quarter are great starting points. Let's table a whole lot more ideas - throw them all down and see what the people say."
The restaurateur knows a thing or two about running a business in the cut throat hospitality scene and about what makes the central city tick.
If elected mayor in October, Molloy says he will put a 'for sale' sign on Ports of Auckland to obtain $8b to $10b to use "as the fuel to invigorate Auckland" with a new operator and a lease in perpetuity on the land.
He wants some of the proceeds to go into Auckland hosting the 2034 Commonwealth Games and a 50,000 seat waterfront stadium with an adjoining cultural centre and aquatic facility.
"It's affordable, and it'll change this city forever, in a similar way to the metamorphosis of Sydney when it shifted its ports, and built the Opera House," Molloy said.
That's a proper plan, says Molloy - inspirational, well thought out, commercially viable, funded - and he says it'll work.
"Not to get ahead of myself, but I'm rather keen to see 50,000 domestic and international visitors in the CBD for a fortnight, watching The Rolling Stones on Thursday - in 2034, Keef will still be in his prime - the Auckland Philharmonic in Cornwall Park on Friday; the All Blacks playing Ireland on Saturday; a decent wine and food festival over on the wee drinking island known as Waiheke on Sunday; and the opening of the World Masters Games on Monday."
Morris is flying a flag in the mayoral contest as the forerunner to an Animal Justice Party at next year's general elections.
His is a green vision for the central city and the wider city. Concrete in the city centre will be replaced with greenery, which will attract bird and other native wildlife.
"It will provide cool, quiet areas for people to unwind, children to play in, and adults to enjoy the scenery. We will confine development to areas with little or no biodiversity," Morris said.
Public transport will be free, and where practicable dogs will be allowed on trains and buses.
"We plan to make the city safer and more accessible to cyclists, pedestrians and those taking alternative transport such as rental scooters or electric skateboards. Adding more pedestrian crossings and light-controlled crossings could be done cheaply but will make a huge difference to road safety."
Most people cannot afford Gucci, Louis Vuitton and the other expensive Queen St stores, says Morris, and he would encourage street theatre, busking, free or affordable concerts and similar events.
He would also like to find ways to curb the power of Sky City casino and other corporations to allow money to flow through the community instead of these "economic parasites".