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America's Cup - Auckland Council grapples with tough Cup options

by Richard Gladwell, NZ on 5 Sep 2017
Emirates Team NZ finishes in front of a partially filled stadium - America's Cup Match - Bermuda 2017, creating a planning headache for Auckland Council. Richard Gladwell
The Auckland Council's Planning Committee met in an open session this morning to consider a number of options and updates on long term planning for the Auckland area.

The total spend over a 10 year period was estimated by Mayor Phil Goff on TV3's AM Breakfast Show as being between $700-$800million and $1.2billion(all NZD).

Running interference across the planning process undertaken to date is the potential hosting of the 2021 America's Cup, which according to Mayor Phil Goff will only be held in Auckland if Emirates Team NZ are happy with the planning and where bases will be located. OPEC will also be hosted in Auckland in 2021.

The options seemed to boil down to an extension of the Halsey Street wharf - which ran off the road where Emirates Team New Zealand base used to be located and north and west of the Viaduct Events Centre. Halsey Wharf didn't figure in the long term plan until 2032-2042 decade. One option is to bring that plan forward, however it was made very clear that while the America's Cup requirements could be catered for in the short term, a long term legacy use was a more important factor.

The Halsey Wharf location was described as not being a priority in the long term plan - but that option was complicated by the 'America's Cup debate'. A move by one Councillor to have Halsey Street Wharf extension ruled out of consideration was lost on a vote 6-13 with the majority wanting all options to be considered at this stage.

While TV news played up the Halsey Street wharf extension as an option, it runs counter to a reluctance by authorities to encroach into the harbour. Plus concerns were raised about increasing traffic in an area which is already congested. The increase would be significant with ten team bases in the location plus media traffic.

The second area that seems to be on the table is Captain Cook Wharf in the centre of the Port of Auckland, with that structure earmarked for a long term cruise ship terminal - necessary in a destination which is experiencing a doubling of cruise traffic every ten years. Last year 104 cruise ships visited Auckland, with four coming in on one day.

Captain Cook Wharf could also be an interim solution for teams with the expectation that teams would be working out of Auckland from mid-2019. However it must be noted that if a multihull option is selected as the America's Cup Class then the teams could locate elsewhere in the Auckland region until October 2020, as the shallow draft multihull can be accommodated in variety of locations around Auckland, unlike a deep keeled monohull used until the 2010 America's Cups.

It appeared that Captain Cook Wharf could be extended to improve its use as a cruise ship terminal.

'Assuming that we want to hold onto the America's Cup those two objectives could clash,' noted one councillor. The Mayor Phil Goff backed up that comment saying the wharf couldn't be used for cruise ships and Cup bases.

Further it was noted that the America's Cup would be staged at the height of the cruise ship season.

For Captain Cook Wharf (currently a flat deck and ready to go for base construction) to be viable it would need to released quickly. 'Based on past experience that would be a challenge,' noted one Councillor.

Initial space requests, probably indicated by parties associated with Emirates Team NZ 30,000 sq metres of room for bases alone. That size was described as being 'a lot of room'.

By comparison the total footprint of the America's Cup bases and intervening water space in the Royal Dockyard in Bermuda was 2.5 time that size at 182,250 sq metres.

Calculations with the bases at Royal Dockyard in Bermuda - each base was using about 3500sq metres - meaning that the space requirements had been geared around ten teams.

Simple arithmetic and a quick play on Google Earth shows that the Captain Cook Wharf will yield about 16,800 sq metres of space - about half what is required for team bases and with no spectator or administrative/media centre space.

Justification for a legacy use for superyachts did not seem to find favour with the Council - contributing too little to the City economy to be viable for the premium space required. It was also noted that the fishing fleet was in decline in its use of the Halsey Wharf - where they had been moved after the development of the Viaduct Harbour, with the fleet working out of other ports on the east and west coast

The obvious location on Wynyard Wharf/Wynyard Point which had been pencilled in to become a public park on its northern end with further apartments built on the southern end. Positioned to the east of Westhaven marina Wynyard Point integrates well with Westhaven marina - enabling race management to be run out of clubs and buildings in the Westhaven area if required, reducing the footprint and costs.

Wynyard Point is the only option with sufficient space - around 85,000 sq metres that would enable a stadium, team bases and a media and broadcast centre.

Mayor Phil Goff commented that 'I've got opinions - I want to get rid of those bloody tanks' - a reference to the cluster of storage tanks on Wynyard Point/Park location, and that they would need to bring forward the date for their removal in the current Long Term Plans.

Mayor Goff also made it clear that decisions would have to be made against hard evidence and the options would have to be set out against a basis of hard evidence. He did not want to see options ruled out on the basis of opinion, which is why the majority of Councillors agreed to keep the Halsey Wharf extension option on the table for the time being.

When decisions had to be made the options would be stacked up one against the other Goff said.

The Mayor made the comment that he was against the Council 'funding yacht races', but by implication seemed more relaxed about the already heavily debt-laden Council spending on infrastructure.

The Mayor noted that 'funding is constrained'.

Earlier in the session one of the Auckland Council staff under questioning commented 'implementation work for bases would have to start quickly for bases to be ready by mid-2019 - which doesn't leave a lot of time to get infrastructure built.'

No mention was made of a permanent base for Emirates Team New Zealand in the current plans.

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