Wahooo, well done Team NZ for once again winning the America’s Cup.
It’s exciting not just because we won it, but also because of the potential impact hosting the event could have on progressing a number of important projects in Auckland – assuming it’s hosted in Auckland of course.
Events in the past have provided politicians and officials with the impetus needed to push along the development of city of some positive legacy infrastructure. For example, without the previous hosting of the America’s Cup would we have pushed to develop the Viaduct area when we did or would it have been left even longer languishing as a wasteland. And whatever you think of that area now, without it, would we have pushed on with the planning and implementation of more of the waterfront, such as with the fantastic Wynyard Quarter. And of course, Wynyard – or more specifically the North Wharf area – got pushed along by our hosting of the Rugby World Cup, as did our first shared spaces.
So, what potential infrastructure that improves the public realm could we see get a push along from the hosting another America’s cup? My guess is there are three key projects that holding such an event could give a real hurry up to. This assumes we would hold an event in about 2021
- Progressing the development of our waterfront
- Improving Quay St
- Getting started on Light Rail
Progressing the development of our waterfront
We’ve made great progress with our waterfront but there’s a lot more to do and current plans extend out to about 2040. As I understand it, Panuku Development Auckland are currently conducting a targeted refresh of the plans, focused on Wynyard Point and the Central Wharves.
First, we will obviously need somewhere to base the event. The most likely place is expected to be a planned 60-80m extension of the Halsey Street Wharf. The plans talk about it being to accommodate our growing fleet of fishing boats and superyachts, and to create a third Viaduct Basin. That is expected over using Wynyard Point as I understand the current leases for tanks mostly start expiring from about 2022 onwards.
Further along the waterfront, there are plans for more public space along the front of Quay St, some of which is to make up for the space lost by the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square. I’m not sure on the planned timeline of these projects but if not already planned to happen in time, perhaps they could be fast tracked. Some of the proposals we’ve seen include redeveloping the ferry terminal and expanding the public space available
There are also plans to eventually open up the red fence between Queens and Captain Cook wharves. It might be a bit harder to pull off in the timeframe but who knows, why not try
Improving Quay St
While technically part of Waterfront plans, I thought this was worth listing separately. There has long been a desire to transform Quay St into a more people-focused space. We’ve seen an initial, albeit temporary, start to that with the Quay St cycleway but transforming the street as a whole can only happen after the current CRL works have been completed. The good news is that the early works (from Britomart to Wyndham St) will be completed by the beginning of 2019. That should mean that we have enough time to transform Quay St before an event is held.
Getting started on Light Rail
Auckland Transport’s preferred route for Light Rail see’s it extended along Fanshawe St and all the way to Wynyard Quarter. Assuming that’s where the cup village is located then getting light rail in place could be a great way to deliver large numbers of people to and from the event. Of course, it’s not like we don’t already know light rail is needed and even the government have agreed the project will be needed eventually. While ambitious, it seems feasible that got serious about it now, we could at least get the section from Wynyard and along Dominion Rd up and running in time.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is how that interacts along Fanshawe St with all of the North Shore buses. One possible solution for that would be to keep light rail on Customs St West and build a new, dedicated bridge straight across the viaduct to Madden St. Doing so might also require the removal of the vile Hobson St flyover, something that’s already on the list of things to do in the City Centre Master Plan.
I think if we could give these projects a real boost then it would improve the city not just for a specific event but in a way that would help us in the long term.
Anyway, congratulations again to Team NZ