Actually, Auckland hasn’t belonged to Aucklanders for a long time, probably since a single council bureaucrat in 2007 wiped our City of Sails logo off the slate and Auckland became some sort of golden goose for a New Zealand economy that had been thoroughly lashed to the mast of the financial services-based economic model.
Since then, the outgoing tides under Auckland’s yacht racing fleets have increased by – skippers reckon – a couple of knots as the reclamations continue for the port. Not to mention lengthening the ferry trip for all of us. Gantries on the bloated Fergusson Wharf now seem to tower over Devonport’s wharf on the North Shore and the mayor cackles happily about 70 cranes jabbing up into Auckland’s skyline.
Regrettably, winning the America’s Cup has delivered us, wallets and all, into the vaunting ambitions of those very institutions and murky figures that we have found, over recent years, so thick-skinned and incompetent over the least little thing – filling potholes, maintaining social housing and clearing rubbish come to mind.
In the circumstances, they are definitely not the people we want wielding untold acres of red cones, eyewatering millions of citizens’ dollars, massive holes in the city’s fabric and a deluge of ad hoc projects on the waterfront.
Waitematā and Hauraki Gulf ward councillor Mike Lee can take credit for a lot of solid, workable stuff on Auckland’s harbour, especially during the years from 2004 to 2010 on the Auckland Regional Council. This included the deliberations and major decisions that led to the re-acquisition of all the shares of Ports of Auckland Ltd to secure public open space on the waterfront, the consequent separation out of the Wynyard land portfolio and the original ‘Waterfront Vision’ developed with Ports of Auckland, Auckland City Council and the public.
He was also part of the decisions around a waterfront stadium, the purchase (with the government) of Queens Wharf from Ports of Auckland and the restoration and refurbishment of Shed 10 to become Auckland’s premier cruise ship terminal.
“Auckland is a harbour city, a port city and the Ports of Auckland are of immense strategic importance to New Zealand and of major economic and commercial significance to the people of Auckland,” he told the hearings panel of independent commissioners arbitrating Panuku Development Auckland’s request in December for consent to build two ‘mooring dolphins’ off Queens Wharf.
One of them would be 90 metres further out into the harbour and joined to the wharf with a long, long walkway. It is, he said, a wharf extension that would permanently obstruct ferries as well as yachts and harbour users in the context of the America’s Cup.
“While I have advocated policies specifically aimed at supporting the cruise ship industry, as public servants of Auckland we need to ensure that the cruise ship industry works for Auckland – not the other way round.”
The application seemed to be a singularly uneconomic use of ratepayers’ funds and there was a context of strategic muddle and incoherence to the application, said the former Auckland Regional Council chairman.
He questioned previously unknown behind-closed-doors planning documents and economic justifications laden with dire warnings that routinely proved to be subjective and exaggerated justifications for public expenditure that should be taken with a pinch of salt.
“The largest oversize cruise ship presently in the region, Ovation of the Seas has been calling at Auckland with increasing frequency since 2016, although it is unable to berth and has to transport its passengers ashore by tender.
“We can be confident of continued visits regardless of the outcome of this consent decision. As indicated by the various figures in Panuku’s evidence (as opposed to the conclusions asserted in that evidence) the number of cruise ship visits, especially of non-oversize vessels, will almost certainly increase in coming years. The problem Auckland and other ports like Sydney will face will not be insufficient ship visits but too many,” he said.
“From the passengers’ perspective the views of the Waitematā Harbour and of Auckland from a ship in the stream are quite splendid, creating a memorable experience – certainly more scenically attractive than being alongside at Queens Wharf at this point in time.
“For cruise passengers, coming ashore by tender is not an uncommon experience. Tourists actually pay for such boat trips on Auckland Harbour.
“It is a pleasant and enjoyable ‘City of Sails’ experience.” • Liz Waters