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America's Cup - No easy options for Auckland bases + Video

by Richard Gladwell, NZ on 10 Oct 2017
Artemis Racing performs an end of race wheelie for the crowds in the America's Cup Village Stadium Richard Gladwell
The Auckland Council is going to have to get over its principles if it wants to keep the America's Cup in Auckland.

Some liken it to swallowing a dead rat.

An analysis of four of the options shows that none are ideal. Or if they do work in the America's Cup context, and the Council doesn't have a legacy use, and it won't spend $150million on what it perceives to be a White Elephant.

The map below is based around developing a requirement for 30,000sq metres of hard stand which will accommodate 8-10 teams depending on the required footprint, which was 3,500sq metres per team in Bermuda.

Three of the four options involve either wharf extension or reclamation - none of which are palatable options for the Auckland Council, and without the assistance of an America's Cup Empowering Act would surely be held up by prolonged planning action and litigation by groups opposed to further encroachment in the harbour.

The best option, an extension to Halsey Street, was almost taken off the list of options to be passed to the Council CEO for further analysis and report back, during a Council meeting on September 5, 2017. While several of the Council were opposed, they voted in favour only to see an unrestricted slate of options considered.

See the video extract from the Council meeting of September 5, 2017 which outlined many of the issues and attitudes towards an America's Cup in Auckland. The meat of the discussion starts at 18minutes 20 seconds into the video. Then skip to 37minutes in, then to 1hr 5 secs.

The Westhaven marina site is handy to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron but has difficult and narrow street access. It requires the development of a new road based on the current breakwater to reach the end of the new reclamation - a not insubstantial work.

The legacy use of the area would be construction of more marinas in Westhaven and car parking. The 30,000sq metres has no allowance for an America's Cup Village, which would be required to be based away in the Viaduct area, but with no visibility of the team bases which were vital part of the America's Cup in Bermuda. The media centre would need to be allocated in the Viaduct Events Centre or a special temporary facility constructed.

In the San Francisco America's Cup, the bases were remote from the America's Cup Village with the boats being required to be brought to the America's Cup for a Dockout ceremony. However it was a poor substitute for being in the same place as happened in Bermuda, and there was no return to the America's Cup Village after racing which was a big part of the fan experience in Bermuda.

The third issue is that if Emirates Team New Zealand defends the Cup, as they did in 2000, then the Westhaven area would still be required for bases for the next cycle and indeed until the Cup left New Zealand - which could be for several cycles of three years each.

Next is the Wynyard Point area, currently covered in various tanks and silos, with an oil discharge facility along its eastern side.

The area is designated to be developed in the Council's Long Term Plan. However, leases are believed to extend into 2025 or later - and the America's Cup will have been sailed by that time.

The option is to bring forward the lease termination date by two or three years. However there is the vexed issued of contamination rectification, which is believed to be the responsibility of the current lessees, that would be a negotiating point and trade-off if there were early termination of the leases - with unknown cost.

The area does have the required land for bases at around 85,000sq metres, and could also take an America's Cup Village if required. The area is reasonably handy to ferries, public and rail transport and the cafes and bar on North Wharf and the Viaduct Harbour.

If the area were used for the America's Cup Village as well as team bases, then the Bermuda experience would be recaptured (except for the out of this world reggae bands and talent).

The legacy use of the area is to be developed like the rest of the Viaduct Harbour with more apartments and offices. That in itself creates the same issue as with the current Viaduct area - the legacy use is incompatible with ongoing America's Cup and other marine event use. A Wynyard Park creation is a long-term legacy use. However, this space is not sufficient to accommodate America's Cup teams. Where the requested 30,000sq metres would host just seven or eight challengers plus Team New Zealand.

Whether the fuel discharge facility would also be closed down is not clear, given the recent fuel supply line crisis. However, there is a lot of planning and construction work to be completed for a mid-2019 arrival of the first America's Cup teams - about 20 months hence.

Halsey Street extension (either by a wharf construction or reclamation) will have a tough battle at Council level, given that the facility was included as 'future-proofing' in the original Long Term Plan developed in 2012. Its use was for the now depleted fishing fleet and superyacht servicing - of which the Council is sceptical as to its return to the marine industry.

Construction would probably be the second fastest of the options assuming it could get through a planning process in a few months before construction began.

The Halsey Street requires the smallest footprint of all the options as it is adjacent to the Viaduct harbour area which would be the base for the America's Cup Village. It also has the Viaduct Events Centre in close proximity which could be used for Media, Administration and a trade/team exhibitions in its lower level. After or between Cups the Viaduct Events Centre would return to its current legacy use.

The legacy use of the facility needs to be determined, however, it could take a structure like 'The Cloud' erected for the Rugby World Cup to create a large downtown viewing theatre and viewing facility.

Another use is as a marine events stadium, creating a larger area of sheltered water for harbour swimming and waka ama type events, Volvo Stopovers etc. as well as allowing much larger events based at the Viaduct Events Centre.

A key to its development and ongoing use is that is preserved as flat deck space without the construction of hotels and apartments - or the loss of public space occurs again as happened with the Viaduct Harbour.

The fourth area is the extension of Captain Cook Wharf.

Like the extension of Halsey Street, the Council claims to be philosophically opposed to further encroachment on the Harbour of wharves and reclamations. However, every rule has an exception, and cruise ship money seems to talk.

The legacy use of Captain Cook wharf extension is for a cruise ship terminal, with cruise ship traffic doubling every ten years. That means that the facility would be available for one Cup Defence.

If Team New Zealand were successful in their first Defence, then one option would be to turn away cruise ship visits for the intervening three years and then hope the Cup was lost in the second Defence, never to return again. Even so, that would still create considerable cruise ship berthage contention with there being overflow to other wharves and facilities at present during the cruise ship season.

The area also is away from the America's Cup Village and Media Centre unless these were re-located in some way. It is close to public transport and ferries. But team bases in the central downtown area would increase traffic congestion in the area with team and other America's Cup vehicles and with little extra parking available other than on wharves.

Next step is expected to be the drafting of a Host City Agreement by Emirates Team New Zealand and then negotiating with the Auckland Council.

Who pays is another question, with the debt-strapped Council involved in several high costs infrastructure projects, and knowing that if they invest the $150million required to secure the Cup then the NZ Government reaps the well documented reward in terms of GST and Tax spend by teams and visitors for no outlay. For its part the previous Government [NZ is currently in an electoral impass] was unwilling to invest in a facility only to hand it over to be owned by the Auckland Council.

Bermuda's spend of USD77million looks cheap in comparision with Auckland - that comprised a USD15million event fee, a USD25million underwrite on any sponsorship shortfall and the balance of USD35million to create Cross Island within the Royal Dockyard.

Under the Protocol governing the 36th America's Cup, certainty on the facilities is required by August 2018 or earlier, otherwise, the Cup may relocate to Italy.

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