Team NZ deserve Auckland's applause yet again. This time for their willingness to compromise on the facilities to be built for their defence of the America's Cup in 2021. Not all of the team are happy to relinquish their hopes of hosting all the syndicate bases on one enlarged wharf but their chairman, Stephen Tindall, has acknowledged the case against extending Halsey Wharf so far into the harbour.
The Auckland Council deserves praise too for resisting any temptation to give the defender whatever it wanted to ensure the event is held in Auckland. The council ruled out that option at an all-day meeting on the subject on Thursday and is now looking at two remaining possibilities, a dispersed base at Wynyard Pt or preferably, clusters of bases in the Wynyard Basin on existing wharves slightly extended.
Slightly extended sounds too much for the group called "Stop Stealing Our Harbour". Spokesman Michael Goldwater said the group is opposed to the council's preferred option. "We don't think sticking a whole lot of sheds on the end of a concrete wharf is the best thing to do from an urban design perspective," he said.
Let's hope the group copies the more reasonable attitude of Team NZ if the council eventually settles on slight extensions of Halsey and Hobson wharves in the basin. There is a vast difference between this plan and the rejected one which would have made Halsey Wharf as long as Wynyard and Princes wharves with a dog-leg towards Princes. Visually, the end of the three wharves would have become the new waterfront, 200m further into the harbour.
An extension of that scale might have accommodated the number of luxury yachts expected to come for the Cup as well as the participating syndicates, which is now Team NZ's main concern. In a statement issued after the council's decision, the team said, "It seriously restricts the ability of the marine industry to benefit from the berthing of the super yachts and the ability to extract maximum economic benefit." The plan eventually adopted would need to "reincorporate the lost super yacht berthage within the event perimeter."
That ought not to be hard if the "event perimeter" embraces the Viaduct Basin and the Wynyard Quarter, the legacy of Team NZ's last tenure of the America's Cup. Different people lead the team now and they sound anxious to create their own legacy, which they will. The council's preferred option would squeeze several syndicate bases between the liquid storage depots on the Western reclamation. That could be the wedge needed to hasten the departure of the tank farm from that prominent point in the harbour.
Syndicate barns might not be a visual improvement, as Goldwater suggests, but they would be temporary. The greater concern is that when the Cup departs, the sheds will be replaced by permanent commercial structures. The hotel occupying Princes Wharf is the spectre. Wharves are not well used when they become public open space, as Queens Wharf is proving. But the enlargement now envisaged of Halsey Wharf looks too small for a hotel or the like. It will probably provide more berths for luxury yachts at the Viaduct when the Cup has gone.
The council and the Government need to come to a final decision now without delay and let Team NZ start showing prospective challengers the prime waterfront spaces that await them.