Feathers fly in plaza row
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.’’
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.