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The drawn-out saga of Queens Wharf has become such an embarrassment that it is tempting to greet Friday's compromise with a sigh of relief.

Non-Aucklanders who make good sport of ridiculing Jafas wonder with good reason how collective civic expertise could make such a hash of what seemed like a simple task.

With the Rugby World Cup barely a year away, decision is better than indecision, but the two parties to Friday's announcement exhibited as much satisfaction as someone contemplating root canal work. That is as it should have been, because regardless of what they had decided to do, Queens Wharf was always going to be - and remains - the wrong place to do it.

The very name "Party Central" should have served as a warning that a disaster was in the making. The phrase's dated, geeky overtones were exaggerated by the fact that it was coined by the Prime Minister, who is not everyone's idea of a party animal. And it assumed that everybody - never mind rugby fans - would get together and party where they were told to.

We have a scant tradition of gathering outdoors to watch sporting events on giant screens, particularly in rain-prone spring: New Zealanders who aren't able to get to the ground prefer to enjoy their sport in pubs and clubs or at home.

And imagine the private reaction of police - from the top brass to the lowliest constable - at the news that the Prime Minister was wanting all the rugby fans in Auckland to gather in one place at the same time and start drinking.

Doubtless the PM wanted to inject a little atmosphere into the Queen City on the occasion of the biggest sporting event ever held here. But if the intention was commendable, the execution has been awful.

The dithering by local body leaders has seemed worse than it actually was: advice about the heritage value of the cargo sheds arrived late and was then disputed, and the waters were inevitably muddied by the fact that the major players are jockeying for position ahead of October's local elections.

But the Government's paternalistic, not to say bullying, determination that it would tell Auckland what was best for the city suggested that it had learned nothing from the stadium debacle.

So now it's decided: Shed 10 and the temporary "slug" (the Government's preferred description is "cloud") will make a "fan zone". Final costings - as distinct from the final cost - will emerge in the days ahead.

But it will remain the wrong plans in the wrong place at the wrong time. The city having only just retaken possession of its waterfront, this is a time to carefully explore the idea of an integrated development joining the city to the water. Whatever happens at Queens Wharf will either pre-empt some of that decision-making or involve substantial expenditure on structures that will have to be bulldozed or further refurbished.

In a country already borrowing $250 million a week, it is madness to pursue the Queens Wharf option when the Viaduct Events centre is being built anyway; is scheduled for completion well before the Rugby World Cup; and is far better sited, close to an entertainment precinct rather than tucked behind a commuter ferry terminal.

As our informal poll today suggests, most Aucklanders think a Viaduct location makes more sense. If Queens Wharf's proximity to Britomart and Queen St - scarcely the pulsating heart of the City of Sails - is important, that is easily solved by laying on a continuous, free shuttle-bus service linking it to the Viaduct's eastern and western sector.

As matters stand, we are committed to a dog's breakfast of a design in a place no one will want to go. Auckland may think that the arguments are over, but the problems with Party Central have barely begun.