When Auckland Mayor Phil Goff was a boy, his oil company worker dad took him to Wynyard Wharf for the Christmas parties put on for workers' families.
"I loved the Christmas party, but it was a pretty scungy area — contaminated soil, heavily industrial," the man who now leads our biggest city says.
In October last year, Goff returned to the wharf, the western-most of almost a dozen wharves pushing into Waitematā Harbour below downtown Auckland.
He watched as some of the first of 12 steel silos, which have been an ugly feature of the wharf for decades, were pulled down. Another 44 are set to go over six weeks in August, although Panuku Development Auckland is looking at whether some could stay as part of an extension to the popular Silo Park.
But on that mid-spring day last year Goff wasn't witnessing the end of the story. He was seeing the page turn on a new chapter in his city's history.
The removal of the tanks is just one part of a massive project to prepare Wynyard Quarter and neighbouring Viaduct Basin for Auckland to once again host the battle for yachting's most-coveted prize, the America's Cup.
This new America's Cup village won't come cheap.
All up, you'll be paying almost $250 million; $136.5m is coming from taxpayers and $113m from Auckland ratepayers.
Auckland Council is also spending $100m on "auxiliary" works through the long-term plan to improve the waterfront, including $22m for the Daldy St stormwater outfall and $20m for a new Sealink site.
On the flip side, two Market Economics reports from 2017, one relating to potential economic benefits to Auckland and New Zealand and the other focusing specifically on the marine sector, suggest the event could pump up to $1b into the economy and create between 4700 and 8300 jobs, mostly in Auckland.
The reports indicated the Cup could also accelerate urban development projects, and prove a catalyst for removing tanks from Wynyard Park and turning the area into a public space.
It's not just about building what Emirates Team New Zealand and the six syndicates vying for glory need in 2021, but also leaving a legacy of much improved public space and resources long after the racing yachts have sailed away.
The hard yakka's already under way.
Goff's seen perhaps the more dramatic part — giant tanks coming down — but wander north towards the Te Wero drawbridge — also to be replaced before the Cup begins — that connects downtown Auckland with Wynyard Quarter and you'll see cranes looming large over fluoro-clad workers helping build the Hobson Wharf extension for Italian challenger of record Luna Rossa.
Cross the drawbridge and walk just beyond where Team New Zealand have already claimed the Viaduct Events Centre as its base and you might hear the sound of high-pressure water lancers breaking weak concrete at Wynyard Wharf.
That weak concrete will be replaced by strong concrete, so the wharf can eventually hold the cranes favoured for the launching of multi-million dollar racing yachts, in this case for the five other teams that, along with Luna Rossa, want to wrest the cup off Team New Zealand.
Work to repair the wharf began in September last year, the first of a string of projects planned over the next 18 to 20 months, before the horn blows in January 2021 for the Prada Cup, the round-robin event that decides the challenger for Team New Zealand in March's America's Cup.
Media reports this week suggested three challengers — DutchSail, Malta Altus and Stars and Stripes Team USA — would soon pull out because of money concerns. Newshub reported this would cost Team New Zealand $5m per team as they would not be able to sell a design and technology package.
But Stars and Stripes publicly denied a withdrawal, and Newshub reported that Team New Zealand had said no team had officially withdrawn, but they didn't expect all three to be there in 2021.
A funding deadline was unlikely to be a concern for teams right now, the defender later said.
Economic Development Minister David Parker said the Government had committed to paying a share of the infrastructure costs, as well as the event fee, and this had to be committed before the final number of teams was known to ensure the event could go ahead.
"My advice is that there are sufficient committed teams for the event to go ahead as planned. Some months ago we considered if some of the spending on wharf developments should be cancelled, but not enough would have been saved so we decided to go ahead."
More teams meant greater immediate economic benefit to New Zealand, but the benefits of the investment in the cup infrastructure extended much further than the next challenge, Parker said.
"As well as supporting the sailing event, the Government's $136m investment will contribute to a legacy for Auckland and for New Zealand for years to come."
Other early works already under way at the future cup village include a 70m extension to Hobson Wharf, the planned base for Luna Rossa, dredging in the outer Viaduct Harbour and the building of the first of six planned breakwaters.
The owners of America's Cup yachts understandably aren't too keen on the wakes from Auckland's commuter ferries sloshing into their high-tech, high-value racers, Wynyard Edge Alliance project director Iain Simmons says.
He should know. Wynyard Edge is the group of construction and engineering firms and local and national governing bodies tasked with designing and constructing the marine and land-based infrastructure needed to host the Cup.
The wharf bases for Team New Zealand's challengers are among the key works for the alliance since the Environment Court granted, a month early, approval for the America's Cup in September last year.
The extension for Luna Rossa's Hobson Wharf base is expected to be finished by October and the shared Wynyard Wharf site for the five other syndicates is due to be completed by January, in the case of three, and June next year, for the remaining two.
Bridges for the Wynyard Wharf bases are also expected to be completed late this year or early next year.
Dredging in the outer Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Basin, through to late this year, and the construction of the North Wharf superyacht berths in December 2020 are also among works planned to prepare for the Cup, but Simmons and his team will be drawing the line at the building of team bases.
"We're going to leave a nice flat platform, with services, for them, and then they do the building."
At least one of those buildings could be a legacy in itself, Goff says.
He's met with Luna Rossa syndicate chief Patrizio Bertelli, who told him of his plans for the challenger of record's Hobson Wharf boathouse.
"He's going to be spending literally tens of millions of dollars on the boathouse for Luna Rossa ... it will be designed by [architect] Renzo Piano, who designed The Shard in London and the [Centre] Georges Pompidou building in Paris, so he's a world-renowned architect and Mr Bertelli has got him designing the team base for Luna Rossa."
There's a 10-year resource consent for the boathouses, Goff says.
"But obviously if the thing was a really iconic building the public would probably start asking, 'Hey, why would we pull this down? Maybe we should just leave it in place'. But that's a decision for the future."
Team New Zealand, who are based at Halsey Wharf, moved into the Viaduct Events Centre in October last year.
Large single roller doors have been installed facing the team's launching area off Halsey Wharf, an eye-catching addition for those curiously awaiting the launch of their racing boat.
The doors might be firmly shut, but there's plenty of windows for the Cup defenders to look out at the work under way to create the village from which they and others will compete for a cup that was first contested in 1851 — only 11 years after the signing of The Treaty of Waitangi, making it the oldest trophy in international sport.
In a statement, the team praised the efforts of those making the Cup defence in Auckland possible.
"It is hugely exciting to see all of the infrastructure work occurring on all fronts around our team base. The Wynyard Edge Alliance is doing a fantastic job getting on with the work that needs to happen under some very tight deadlines."
The Cup might be two years away, but there was plenty still to do, the team said.
"But seeing all of this work and the event village literally being built around us certainly makes the main event in 2021 seem that much closer, which is hugely exciting for the team and all stakeholders."
High-profile architect Julie Stout is also pleased with what she's seeing at the future America's Cup village, starting with the removal of the tanks and continuing with Team New Zealand's move into the Viaduct Events Centre building.
Urban Auckland, along with harbour advocates Stop Stealing Our Harbour, spoke out about early proposals that would have seen a greater and more expensive intrusion into the harbour, such as a 75m extension to Halsey Wharf to accommodate a base for Team New Zealand.
An agreement on the existing plan was reached after a series of tense negotiations between Team New Zealand, the Government and Auckland Council.
The centre was a "great use" of the building and seeing the tanks starting to come down even better, said Stout, who also leads the architects and urban designers lobby group Urban Auckland.
"That was what we wanted — to use the America's Cup as a tool for redevelopment. The long-term legacy would be the de-industrialisation of Wynyard Point."
Goff, for one, can't wait to put to rest the memories of that scungy wharf of his childhood.
The wharf, including a headland park, is already part of the waterfront development and the long-term plan for Auckland, he said.
"Wynyard Quarter's already a great place to be. I think it's one of the most exciting places in the city, and Wynyard Point will become an extension of that.
"With lots of public space it will be a place where people come from all over Auckland to relax, have a coffee, have a meal, have their kids play in the park, there'll be sculptures ... it will go from one of the least lovely parts of town to one of the most lovely parts of town."
It will take time, but even during the America's Cup public access to the waterfront will improve, with pedestrian walkways around the bases.
"You'll be able to get right up to the bases ... where the work's going on with the yachts and where the teams are so it'll be really vibrant and exciting."
If Team New Zealand are unsuccessful in two years and the Cup moves offshore again, the row of challenger bases will probably be converted back into a linear park (a park that is longer than it is wide), but Goff will be waving the New Zealand flag as hard as he can come 2021.
"If we win the Cup, which we want to do, we've got all that infrastructure there for free for the next race, and we get the benefits all over again without having to invest a whole lot more money.
"That's why I've had the team talk with Team New Zealand — 'Okay guys, we've put a lot of money into this'.
"'Make sure you bloody win'."
Bridge plan revealed
Plans have been revealed for a new pedestrian bridge at Wynyard Quarter to replace the structure installed for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The $3.7m Wynyard Crossing (or Te Wero Bridge) links downtown Auckland to the western edge of the city's waterfront over the Viaduct Basin.
When open, it allows a 36m channel clearance for boats to pass through. The 100m structure was erected as a temporary foot and cycle bridge as part of a $120 million waterfront development in 2011.
"It is reaching the end of its useful life and needs frequent and costly repairs to keep it running smoothly," Panuku development director Allan Young says.
"The proposed bridge will operate more efficiently and cater for the greater number of people who live, work and pass through Wynyard Quarter, as well as the surge of visitors expected to be spending time on the waterfront for the America's Cup."
The new bascule (opening) bridge will be larger - at 6m wide compared to the existing bridge's 4.4m - and is expected to be able to take more pedestrians and let bigger boats through.
An average of 13,000 pedestrians and 750 cyclists cross the bridge each day, and the bridge opens an average of 30 times a day over the busier summer months.
Young describes the replacement opening bridge as "visually spectacular" .
"The double-leaf design is a beautiful structure reminiscent of modern yacht masts or the wings of a large seabird.
"It will be a landmark addition to an already thriving neighbourhood and will be
something all Aucklanders can be proud of."
The final design of the bridge is yet to be determined but Young said Panuku wanted it to "make a positive and memorable contribution to the urban waterfront setting".
Panuku, an Auckland Council-controlled organisation, says it is working to establish the cost of the project. There is an indicative budget of $25.7m, but this was an early estimate.
With more design work to be undertaken and a contestable procurement process planned, it may change.
If resource consent is granted by the middle of this year, construction will start in early 2020 and be complete by the end of that year.
If it is delayed, and the bridge is not able to be built by 2021 when the America's Cup comes to Auckland, the current bridge will be upgraded.
During construction, a temporary pontoon bridge will be in place.
• Drop-in sessions for the public to learn more about the proposed bridge will be held at Karanga Kiosk on Karanga Plaza, Wynyard Quarter next Saturday between
9.30am and 10.30am, on Sunday between 2.30pm and 4.30pm and the following Wednesday between 12pm and 2pm.
• Monday: City Rail Link
• Tuesday: International Convention Centre
• Wednesday: Newmarket shopping centre
• Thursday: Auckland International Airport
• Friday: Commercial Bay
• Today: America's Cup Village Development