Many Aucklanders would love to see a waterfront that people can truly enjoy. From Westhaven to St Heliers.
On the face of it, two former prime ministers coming out in favour of moving the port could be seen as manna from heaven by those of us wanting an aspirational vision for the waterfront. But it must be backed by independent analysis that asks the right questions about what is best for the future interests of Auckland and New Zealand, not political expediency.
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Developing this part of the waterfront is not just a nice thing to do. With the level of projected growth in the city centre we don't have sufficient public space and facilities to support this growth. Having a holistic masterplan that can guide investment is vital to get the best from this prime space.
Counter that with questions about the proposed timeframe, location and motivations behind the latest in a long line of reports about moving the port, and we may be in for a rough ride ahead. One that goes absolutely nowhere if individual interests and silo thinking continues to prevail.
There are valid reasons to be concerned about the current debate. Putting a stake in the ground and getting action is important but the rationale must be solid. The consequences of moving without appropriate infrastructure in place, could significantly impact the cost of goods in Auckland and do little to alleviate congestion or contribute to a net reduction in carbon emissions.
However, what we do know is that of all the studies, the one thing that unites them is that the port should move, the questions relate to where and when. How this decision is arrived at is fundamental to the success of this highly charged matter.
Auckland's track record of working collaboratively and delivering on big-picture ideas is abysmal. Discussions stall, decisions get re-litigated, more reports are commissioned and around it goes ad infinitum. We only have to look at the mess of retrospectively building infrastructure that should have been built many years ago.
Similarly, for many years there has been discussion about a cultural centre on the waterfront and a downtown stadium. The former seems quite popular but goes nowhere. The latter is emotive, with some strongly supportive and some violently opposed, and goes nowhere too.
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Once again, I think this sort of discussion needs to be assessed with a wider lens – what does our future city need and what is the best location? It's not really about today's needs – what will future citizens want and need in terms of sporting, entertainment and other facilities?
This will take a new way of doing things, with leadership and culture at the heart of it. An approach that all players have a genuine desire to deliver what is best for the country and city and will work together to find ways of achieving this. Central and local government, iwi, private sector and business advocates, residents, the not for profit sector and other groups with a strong passion for delivering the best city and waterfront.
In an ideal world, you'd start with a blank canvas but assessing ideas already on the table could be a catalyst to get this underway. The attitude behind the "crater" concept mooted for Bledisloe Wharf illustrates an NZ Inc approach with an independent feasibility study of this concept along with others, including Eden Park to ensure the best outcome for the city.
Working collaboratively and strategically will help bring clarity to the future use of our waterfront and must start now. It would lead to an integrated and aspirational masterplan that we work towards achieving over time as and when the port moves. This will also ensure that any decisions that need to be made in the interim are made within a wider context to avoid ad hoc decisions that just cause more angst.
At the same time, we need to quickly progress an independent, high quality analysis that will ensure the right solution and timing to move the port, including options for moving specific parts of the port. This will need clever and innovative thinking to ensure the best result.
Can Auckland and the various interests that need to work together very differently do this? I hope so for the sake of future generations. We don't want them to look back and see bad decisions and missed opportunities. Let's cure the paralysis of the "Auckland Disease" once and for all.
• Viv Beck is chief executive of Heat of the City, the business association for Auckland's city centre.