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Key takes swipe at mayors over wharf decision

Prime Minister John Key has taken a swipe at Auckland's mayors after they rejected plans to fund a "party central" and a $100 million-plus cruise ship terminal on the city's Queen's Wharf for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.The Government and Auckland

Mon, 22 Feb 2010

Prime Minister John Key has taken a swipe at Auckland's mayors after they rejected plans to fund a "party central" and a $100 million-plus cruise ship terminal on the city's Queen's Wharf for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The Government and Auckland Regional Council (ARC) spent $20m each to buy Queen's Wharf from the Ports of Auckland, a subsidiary company of the regional council, in June last year.

Mr Key said at the time he wanted the wharf, now sealed off from the public by red gates, to be "party central" for fans who could not attend World Cup games.

He saw the wharf "as the cornerstone of this Rugby World Cup phase of the waterfront development".

But it was not clear at the time who would pay, and after some hiccups over the lack of "iconic" designs, the Mayoral Forum today decided it wouldn't be Auckland city and district councils, saying there should be more thought about the overall plans for the Auckland waterfront development as a whole.

Mr Key said through a spokesman today the Government would, with the ARC, reflect on the forum's comments, the Government still wanted to see something done before the tournament.

"We are disappointed with the outcome and the continued inability of the elected Mayors across the Auckland Region to agree on a sensible way forward," he said.

"We still believe Queen's Wharf is the right place to host party central for the Rugby World Cup, and the right place for a cruise ship terminal."

Labour Party leader Phil Goff said the Government's failure to secure agreement on "party central" showed National's handing of preparations was "a shambles".

"This now means Auckland will be playing catch up to get a venue ready to host the tens of thousands of rugby supporters who will flock to New Zealand," he said.

"The party central plan was ill thought out and was being rushed for one major event without consideration for the long-term development of a stunning piece of waterfront."

Mr Goff said Mr Key, the Tourism Minister, should take some blame for the project's failure.

"John Key was all for hosting the party, but he didn't do the work to get it ready."

Forum chairman, Franklin Mayor Mark Ball, said mayors didn't think ratepayers should spend money on a new cruise ship terminal during times of economic hardship, and without a wider discussion of what was best for the downtown waterfront.

Mr Ball said a $29.5m Maritime Events Centre being constructed not far from Queen's Wharf would be a good spot for a "party central".

Auckland City Mayor John Banks said he thought there could be several party centrals, among them Aotea Square, Parnell Road and Ponsonby Road.

But ARC chairman Mike Lee, who has a seat on the forum, was very disappointed.

"I feel the decision to sit on our hands and do nothing is a failure of nerve and a failure of leadership, and in terms of the forthcoming super city, not a super performance."

Mr Lee said the wharf would be opened up to the public in April and the council would discuss options with the Government.

"Queen's Wharf will be public open space and we are still determined to proceed if we can to put an elegant class of building there to serve as a cruise ship terminal and as an iconic building for Auckland."

As owners, the Government and the ARC could make its own decisions on what should be done at the venue, but Mr Banks said the Government should not force any development plans through without talking to Auckland ratepayers first.

"I've got a message for the Government from the town hall on Queen St in Auckland, the epicentre of the new Greater Auckland Council, and it's this: Don't force on us, the ratepayers of greater Auckland ... a monstrosity of a development at the bottom of Queen St that the Government would expect us to foot the bill on the first of November this year.

"Don't do it. Think carefully, take a decision for common ground and common sense. The people of greater Auckland don't want this giant bus shelter built on the most magnificent waterfront in the world."

Alex Swney, chief executive of inner-city Auckland advocacy group Heart of the City, said a survey his group undertook showed 80 percent of Aucklanders didn't want a "rushed" development of a cruise ship terminal.

"The mayors have got it right," Mr Swney said.

"The great thing is that we can now focus our minds not on a rushed 'airport by the water' but on party central and 2011. That's where we need to be spending our energy.

"We've spent ages getting public access to Queen's Wharf, let's use Rugby World Cup 2011 as a chance to get to know it before we go making irrevocable changes."

Mon, 22 Feb 2010
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Key takes swipe at mayors over wharf decision