Crit­ics slate Aotea Square plan

Central Leader - - News - By Heather McCracken

Early de­signs for Aotea Square’s $25 mil­lion re­vamp have been dis­missed as “stark” and “av­er­age”.

Auck­lan­ders can have a say next month on draft plans for the up­grade, part of the $80m civic carpark re­pair project.

But Auck­land city coun­cil­lor Cathy Casey has panned the de­sign, call­ing it a “stark con­crete jun­gle”.

“It doesn’t even say Auck­land, it could be any­where in the world,” she says.

“For me, Aotea Square is not just a flat square of con­crete for pub­lic events.

“It can and should be a beau­ti­ful and in­ter­est­ing place for adults and chil­dren.”

The draft pro­posal leaves the square an open space sur­rounded by seat­ing and trees, ca­pa­ble of hold­ing events for up to 20,000 peo­ple.

The grassed area re­mains but be­comes ter­raced, with views back to the main square.

The new carpark roof will raise the ground level by about a me­tre, re­sult­ing in changes to en­trances from Queen St and Aotea Cen­tre.

Most ex­ist­ing trees will be re­moved dur­ing re­pairs, and de­ci­sions over which to re­turn will be made with pub­lic in­put.

Heart of the City chief ex- ec­u­tive Alex Swney says the plan is a “pretty av­er­age out­come”.

“Clearly price was the driver, rather than in­spi­ra­tion,” he says.

“Surely we want some­thing we can be proud of and I’m not sure this fits the bill.”

Mr Swney says a mas­ter plan for the whole Aotea precinct, al­low­ing for fu­ture rail and bus links, should be set­tled be­fore the square de­sign is fi­nalised.

The draft was ap­proved by coun­cil­lors at the coun­cil’s arts, cul­ture and re­cre­ation meet­ing on Wed­nes­day last week.

Com­mit­tee chair­man Greg Moyle says the plan cre­ates an im­por­tant open space where large civic events can be held.

“It’s very much a gath­er­ing place as op­posed to a park,” he says.

“When you think about the in­ner city there are not many places we could have those events.”

The key de­tails of the de­sign will be de­cided with pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion, Mr Moyle says.

“What’s ne­go­tiable is the stuff peo­ple re­ally care about, the trees, the seat­ing, the art­works, the flowerbeds.

“We only get the chance to do this once, let’s do it right.”

The square’s five pub­lic art­works will be re­moved dur­ing re­pairs and Mr Moyle says he’s keen to see them re­turn.

But Terry Stringer’s large sculp­ture, Moun­tain Foun­tain, is un­likely to keep its prom­i­nent po­si­tion in the square.

Lo­ca­tions are yet to be found for other key art­works as well, in­clud­ing stat­ues of Sir Dove-Myer Robin­son and Lord Auck­land.

The coun­cil could not re­lease draw­ings as de­signs are still at an early stage.

More de­tailed plans will be ap­proved by a sub-com­mit­tee in­clud­ing mayor John Banks be­fore be­ing re­leased for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion in July.

Alex Swney

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