Just put up temporary shelters and a few big screens on the wharf, writes Kevin Clarke.

The big upside in the Party Central debate is that John Key disabused his Rugby Cup Minister of pushing on with the quietly announced winner of the mismanaged Queens Wharf competition, in time for the Rugby World Cup.

Those winners proffered a souped-up version of their scheme. Naturally, using a beefed-up budget to add a few frills to a poorly-briefed project has no chance of rectifying its grossly defective brief.

A few commentators cling to the idea that the cruise ship terminal can be built in time for the Rugby World Cup. And there is no question that an adequate cruise ship terminal is needed as quickly as possible.

However, there is little chance that the building could gain its resource consent prior to the World Cup - let alone get the thing built, or even started.

That is to say, the new cruise ship terminal is a major public building on a very significant public site. Every citizen in the city would have entitlement to put his hand up and ask to be heard at the resource consent hearing.

Without fast-track enabling legislation therefore, this building has little prospect of even starting on site before the Rugby World Cup.

It would save everyone a great deal of go-nowhere angst to simply stop linking the cruise ship terminal with the World Cup timeframe.

Then there's Party Central. A recent suggestion to upgrade Quay Street as a boulevard has gained attention and a good deal of support.

The idea of using Queens Wharf for Party Central continues to have its supporters and another option - the Viaduct Basin - has dropped off the radar.

As generally agreed, the functional requirements for Party Central are neither difficult nor difficult to achieve in time for the Rugby World Cup. Evaluation of the options is not difficult either, by simply envisaging the available options.

There is no doubt that Queens Wharf could be temporarily fitted out as Party Central, well within time. The suggested budget varies, but appears to be quoted in the sum of approximately $20 million.

However, the televised backdrop would be some tarted up version of the existing Queens Wharf sheds, with new landscaping and temporary support facilities.

Were I in charge of presenting New Zealand to a worldwide television audience, I would do everything possible to disguise the fact that the best our Queen City can do to welcome its cruise ship visitors is a couple of smelly old banana sheds.

Added to that, most of the $20 million Party Central expenditure would be for temporary facilities, much of which will necessarily be ditched when the final requirements for the wharf are known.

Put simply, if you had to earn the required $20 million before spending it on showcasing old banana sheds and temporary hot dog stands, it is unlikely that you would proceed with this compromised option.

The Quay St boulevard has visual appeal, would represent sound, permanent capital investment for the city and should be done anyway. But is it "Party Central"?

Picture this. The World Cup is to be staged in September. It will be cold and wet a fair bit of the time.

There are currently no significant support facilities for large crowds along Quay St, few available restaurants and bars, and with the weather being what it will the prospect is for a cold, wet, poorly-serviced boulevard.

Rather than watching a big screen on wet, windswept steps adjacent to the harbour, I'd bet that most would prefer to be at the park, or tucked up in front of the telly at home.

The Northern Plaza at the Viaduct Basin, on the other hand, was originally and specifically built for large public gatherings. It is already set up, paid for and serviced by scores of fine bars and restaurants.

It is immediately adjacent to the Maritime Museum and the America's Cup Big Boat, both of which showcase New Zealand and Auckland in particular.

As a televised setting, the Viaduct Basin hums. Handsome boats, tourism facilities and generous boulevards make up the foreground. Attractive buildings abut and visually define the basin and above the foreground buildings the city's skyline speaks of a vigorous, sure-footed metropolis.

The set-up is unmistakably first class, by comparison with virtually any city environment anywhere in the world.

The America's Cup festivities proved that the Viaduct site comfortably accommodates huge crowds. Additionally, anyone thinking that the precinct cannot comfortably host very large crowds in party mode could not have attended the recent Melbourne Cup festivities.

For that event, the Viaduct Basin hosted thousands for an afternoon of fine dining and festivities, in unmistakably high style.

It's my guess that Queens Wharf has retained favour as Party Central because it was John Key's idea. It is also my guess that since Mr Key has very significant political cachet, no one has dared to say boo.

Mr Key is not known for his visionary urban design skills, as he happily acknowledges. However, he is blessed with the pragmatism, ability and willingness to change his mind when he sees better alternatives.

Accordingly, it might be time to enlist his common sense and have his advisers look at the big picture, duly coloured with September's grey skies and cold wind whipping things about.

He might also ask his advisers if a compromised $20 million temporary fix that showcases a national embarrassment is more or less sensible than harvesting a considerable existing investment that has already been made in a glittering setting, where little more is needed than some readily available temporary shelters and a few big screens.

* Kevin Clarke is an Auckland architect.