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Waterfront report hardly bold

30 November, 2012

Waterfront report hardly bold

Here at Heart of the City we have long advocated for a long term view on the development of our waterfront. We have long championed a rethink of how our waterfront performs and serves a modern urban economy.

We have lamented the ‘wharf at a time incremental crawl of development’ on our waterfront. Within the Auckland Plan process, Council responded to the concerns of Aucklanders to the possibility of the expansion of our ports activity.

The first step in this reassessment was to commission the report that was published yesterday (Nov 29).

We have learned from these processes in the past never to get our hopes too high. But for some reason we had raised our expectations for a paradigm shift this time. Nothing galvanises Aucklanders more than their affection for the place where this harbour city meets the water.

Unfortunately, we think Aucklanders will be disappointed (again). Today’s report is thorough and informative but lacks imagination – bold it is not!

The first hint of this is the front page; “Our projections cover the next 30 years”. In city building terms this is as good as tomorrow.

So it is no surprise when we read, “the most efficient and cost effective options are likely to be based around incremental growth at each port”.

The problem with this statement is that it speaks from one side of the ledger only. Nowhere in the 224 page report can we see the value of an enhanced harbour and greater tourism appeal or any values being attributed to our goal of being the most liveable city in the world.

If the analysis showed that the Waitemata port is truly the only option then that’s it, we’re stuck with it.

New Zealand is a trading nation and we need efficient port infrastructure. However we should also be ensuring that today’s billion dollar investment decisions are justified, and we should be doing our best not to lump the next generation with a more industrialised looking Waitemata port and the port reclamation problem.

Unfortunately this report lets down both Auckland and New Zealand in the way it has limited itself by its scope and needlessly short timelines.

Our politicians – local and central – can only accept it as a starting point and use it as the first step in a process that balances the ledger with the consideration of other higher value uses of NZ’s most valuable real estate and a horizon beyond their noses.

This plan is more useful than a door stop (just) as it can provide a good basis for the next step but it has failed to acknowledge some key areas – most notably it avoids even the contemplation of something close to visionary. Being generous today – this report gets a D.


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