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Official Opening of the Britomart Transport Centre


Moving Auckland Forward

Hon John Banks QSO
Mayor of Auckland City

25 July 2003

Official Opening of the Britomart Transport Centre
and the restored Old Chief Post Office
Speech notes: Hon John Banks QSO
2.00pm, Friday 25 July 2003

Today is a momentous day in the history of Auckland.

The 25th of July 2003 is forever etched in stone.

Special Guests of Honour, Sir Edmund and Lady Hillary

People of Ngati Whatua

Minister of the Transport

City Transport chairman

Fellow Mayors

Distinguished guests

Deputy Mayor David Hay and Council colleagues

Citizens of Auckland

This day marks the beginning of much greater things in public transport and world-class urban development.

Planning, designing and building the $204 million Britomart Transport Centre has been no easy task.

I salute all those involved in delivering this country’s first underground rail station on time and on budget. The City today owns Britomart debt free.

Tomorrow the public will have the opportunity to fully participate in the celebrations, with the City hosting an open day - a day of free festivities for the families of Auckland.

This nearly complete restoration of the Chief Post Office and the new state-of-the-art transport interchange are indeed worthy of celebration.

On the 20th of November 1912, 10,000 people packed these surrounding streets to witness the opening ceremony of what was then the new Chief Post Office. “The scene was a most imposing one,” headlined the New Zealand Herald.

Addressing the “assemblage” the Prime Minister, the Honourable W. F Massey, congratulated “the citizens of Auckland upon their magnificent post office. An outburst of cheers followed.”

The cost to build the Chief Post Office 91 years ago: 95,000 pound.

Today we applaud architects Mario Madayag and Greg Boyden for their splendid adaptation. The Chief Post Office has returned to its former glory and will continue its narrative on into the new phase of its life as the gateway to Britomart.

Although Oamaru Stone forms the upper façade, most of the building is constructed from “Coromandel granite” quarried from hillside boulders found on the Moehau Peninsula. Interestingly, the same granite was used in the construction of many public buildings at the time, including Parliament House.

I give credit to those responsible for taking the decision to purchase this building which, a decade ago, stood derelict.

When we restore great buildings like the Chief Post Office we recognise the parade of public and personal happenings, of great and small events, of national tragedies and celebrations that have been announced from the steps.

This place has a very significant social history and should stay in public ownership forever. That is my vision.

After nearly 73 years, passenger trains have returned to the bottom of Queen Street. I am delighted that among us this afternoon are three elderly people who took the last train out of the downtown rail station in 1930. We are grateful for their presence.

It is significant that our special Guests of Honour are Sir Edmund and Lady Hillary.

Sir Edmund is this year’s inaugural recipient of Auckland City’s Distinguished Citizen Award and 2003 of course is his 50th anniversary of the ascent of Everest – the highest Mountain on earth. We salute you.

Britomart is about transport. It is also about the future of greater Auckland and giving us a modern integrated transport system worthy of our place in the world.

Britomart is also about heritage and urban renewal.

The redevelopment of the precinct’s 5.2 hectares will provide a huge boost to the central business district. The revitalised area will be low-rise and heritage based and will contain a rich mix of activities.

The surrounding 19 late Victorian and early Edwardian warehouses will be fully restored, with new public areas created and Queen Elizabeth Square substantially redesigned.

Custom Street and Quay Street warehouses were once pivotal in the storage, distribution, exporting and importing of goods.

Fine examples we must conserve and secure include the Northern Steamship Building 1899, the A.H. Nathan Building 1903, and Australia House 1904.

The proposal process for the above ground redevelopment is well advanced. The City has arrived at two preferred proponents, Bluewater Consortium and Melview Developments.

Both contenders have been given until 29 August to submit revised proposals for further evaluation. We are looking forward to a final scheme that will return life to this area.

It was once said… “old buildings are barnacled with laughter and stained with tears – they absorb the sum of all the human activity that has taken place within them.”

This Council is committed to preserving our past.

The CBD will be a pre-eminent place to live and do business.

This Council is focused on enhancing Auckland’s reputation as an internationally competitive city with heart and soul.

The Britomart precinct is a cornerstone to Auckland City’s ambitious urban renewal and downtown redevelopment plans.

Today we reflect on the vision of our forefathers who reclaimed this once inner harbour, using fill from Point Britomart, for the city’s first central railway station.
I acknowledge the work of my predecessors, Mr Les Mills and the Honourable Christine Fletcher, and their respective councils.

The journey of Britomart has already been long and colourful. However this is not the end. The 25th of July 2003 marks the beginning.


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