“Today, Queens Wharf becomes the public’s wharf,” said then Auckland Regional Council (ARC) Chairman Mike Lee in 2010 when the red gates were flung open, once again allowing the public to access the prime piece of Auckland’s waterfront, ending its days of being used to store cars and ripen bananas. The ARC and the government had bought back the wharf from the port for $40 million just under a year earlier.
But plans as part of Auckland Transport’s application to build new ferry berths along the wharf show that for most of the summer months, the wharf will be mostly off limits to the people of Auckland. Unfortunately we missed noticing the plans and the submission period closed late last year.
As part of the massive downtown works currently underway, we’re about to get a great new public space between Queens Wharf and Princes Wharf. This is expected to be completed in time for the America’s Cup in 2021.
Right now that space is used by ferry and tourist operations on Piers 3 and 4. The Ferry Basin is already at or close to capacity so as well as replacing those berths, more are needed. The plan is to add six new berths down the western edge of Queens Wharf. As I’ve said before, one major concern I have with this is that it means some ferry passengers will have a 300m walk just to reach Quay St which just makes catching a ferry harder and less appealing, especially for those with mobility issues.
To get those ferry passengers back to Quay St, they are expected to walk down the western edge of the wharf, uncovered (covered = solid, uncovered = stripped).
One of the reasons for stretching out along Queens Wharf is the eastern side of both Queens and Princes Wharves are cruise ship berths. It’s those cruise ships that are now becoming more of a problem. For some reason, the port, who operate the cruise terminal, have been allowed to use almost all of Queens Wharf to not only service the cruise ships but also for buses to turn around so that cruise passengers don’t have to walk more than a few metres – or perhaps they’re also trying as hard as possible to help the tourist operators capture them.
This is going to become a major problem when we also throw into the mix hundreds of ferry passengers, many with bikes or other bulky items, streaming to and from the boats. Below is what ATs consultants recommend
The western edge is of sufficient width to accommodate both pedestrian and vehicle movements. The intent is to provide a 2.9-metre dedicated pedestrian path with 600mm delineation, and a further 3.5 to 5.5-metre vehicle lane on its eastern side. The provision of the 600mm delineation provides an opportunity to operate a form of temporary separation.
So squeeze those hundreds of people into a relatively narrow path. With a maximum of just 3.5m it only takes a couple of people to effectively block the path and I can already see people just missing their hourly ferry because of the narrowed space to accommodate these buses.
The movement is also shown here. Buses will enter the wharf, drive up the western side of the cloud and then through what is meant to be the public space so they can pull up alongside Shed 10. This is another example where the movement and storage of vehicles has been prioritised over people.
For the odd cruise ship this wouldn’t matter so much but over summer, the exact time people are most likely to want to be using the public space at the end of Queens Wharf, cruise ships are in port on the majority of days. On top of this, over the next decade the number of ships visiting is expected to increase by 80-100% (obviously not all will be on Queens Wharf).
Having sold the wharf for $40 million, the port are now monopolising its use once again and all for an annual licence fee for cruise operations of just $1 – although it pays for sub-structure maintenance.
It’s not just cruise ships either that can take over the space. Events, especially large ones, can also see parts or all of the wharf closed off and vehicles given priority to move through the area.
So what will this look like in reality. First, here’s a visualisation of the completed new berths
Last Friday, Patrick also happened to be down on the wharf as they were testing this out. He grabbed a few photos. The bus is at about the same place it would be in a live environment with ferry passengers left to use the remaining space to the right of it.
The space issue is more clear here where the cone denotes where the vehicle lane is.
Finally, once buses get to the end of the wharf, they have to negotiate around the top of the wharf, making large parts of it unusable.
This is an incredibly poor outcome for ferry users and anyone who might want to utilise the wharf for public space, particularly on a nice summer day.
If this is what’s required to operate cruise ships then they simply can’t be on Queens Wharf. We need more public space for residents, workers and visitors and using it this way leaves the wharf and the public space far too compromised. Therefore we should be forgetting about the mooring dolphins to be built out off the wharf and work should shift to providing cruise facilities on Captain Cook Wharf instead.
Unless this happens, we might as well just close the red fences again and stop pretending the wharf is open to the public.