Feath­ers fly in plaza row

KEY FACTS

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

SOME­THING is brew­ing in Free­man’s Bay and it’s not the beer on tap at the new­ly­opened Bird­cage Restau­rant and Bar.

Waitem­ata Lo­cal Board chairman Shale Cham­bers says the es­tab­lish­ment has been al­lowed to com­man­deer public space for its busi­ness op­er­a­tions, go­ing against coun­cil rules.

He wants to see the plaza area in front of the 127-yearold Rob Roy Ho­tel, cur­rently used by The Bird­cage for out­door din­ing, re­main an open public space free from per­ma­nent fix­tures.

Mr Shale says Auck­land Trans­port, which ad­min­is­ters the space, has li­censed the area con­trary to the Auck­land Coun­cil’s pol­icy that premises re­move street trad­ing fur­ni­ture at the end of the trad­ing day, and with­out con­sid­er­ing the City Cen­tre Mas­ter Plan, the Water­front Plan or the Waitem­ata Lo­cal Board Plan.

But The Bird­cage co­man­ager Phil Hous­ton says a court­yard area is re­quired for the busi­ness to be vi­able.

He says Auck­land Coun­cil ap­proved re­source con­sent for the space which in­cluded fur­ni­ture to be left out overnight.

‘‘A large in­vest­ment was made with the ex­te­rior court­yard to im­prove what I con­sid­ered a bland con­crete area dom­i­nated by skate­board­ers,’’ he says.

‘‘I want fam­i­lies and the com­mu­nity to get ben­e­fit from the area by us­ing our fa­cil­i­ties.’’

Planter boxes have been in­stalled with trees which will grow up to four me­tres high to beau­tify the area.

Mr Hous­ton says it would not be prac­ti­cal or pos­si­ble to up­lift the heavy planters and fur­ni­ture daily.

The space, now called the Wa­iata­rau Plaza, has been leased to the op­er­a­tors for al fresco din­ing for up to 80 peo­ple since the restau­rant opened its doors in Fe­bru­ary.

Waitem­ata Lo­cal Board chairman Shale Cham­bers says the board wel­comed the new plaza when it was first in­tro­duced.

‘‘It looks and acts like a public space and we would like to see a bal­ance be­tween its pri­vate use and the public space.’’

Mr Cham­bers says the fur­ni­ture ex­tends to the point of block­ing easy pedes­trian ac­cess.

The in­tro­duc­tion of an­ti­skate­board lugs to the plaza’s street fur­ni­ture was also a con­cern as the space should be avail­able to ev­ery­one, Mr Cham­bers says.

Auck­land Trans­port says the lugs were in­stalled after skate­board­ers caused $8000 dam­age to the build­ing.

Mr Hous­ton has lodged a for­mal com­plaint with the coun­cil to deal with the dis­tur­bance caused by skate­board­ers skat­ing through the din­ing area.

Mr Hous­ton says he is con­fused as to why this is­sue is be­ing pushed when mil­lions of dol­lars has been in­vested in Vic­to­ria Park’s skate­board­ing fa­cil­ity.

In a re­port to the Waitem­ata Lo­cal Board, Auck­land Trans­port says the court­yard is now be­ing re­designed to clear the area on the west­ern side of the build­ing.

The board is now con­sult­ing Auck­land Coun­cil’s parks depart­ment for ad­vice re­gard­ing the plaza’s orig­i­nal de­sign in­ten­tions, its cur­rent con­fig­u­ra­tions, its com­pet­ing uses and Auck­land Trans­port’s pro­posed changes.

Auck­land Mayor Len Brown says on the rare oc­ca­sions when parts of the coun­cil ar­rive at a stale­mate he will step in and bro­ker the sit­u­a­tion.

But he would like to see the Waitem­ata Lo­cal Board and Auck­land Trans­port re­solve the mat­ter them­selves, he says.

‘‘It’s just great to see The Bird­cage up and run­ning again so it’s dis­ap­point­ing to see any ten­sion around it but they will work it out.’’

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Stale­mate: The Waitem­ata Lo­cal Board and Auck­land Trans­port dis­agree over the li­cens­ing of the plaza area at the front of The Bird­cage which is used by the op­er­a­tors for out­door din­ing.

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