Protest over waterfront extension
Outraged heritage and urban design groups picketed Auckland’s waterfront on Wednesday to protest a wharf extension they say will destroy the city’s harbour views.
Ports of Auckland is due to begin work in April on two 98-metre extensions on either side of the Bledisloe container wharf, which will allow bigger ships to dock.
The port says the piled structures will have no impact on the harbour or its users.
But groups including Civic Trust Auckland, Urban Design Forum, the NZ Institute of Architects Auckland branch and Devonport Heritage say the extensions will block the view of the harbour entrance from the end of Queen’s Wharf.
The protest was organised ahead of yesterday’s Auckland Council meeting to discuss reclamation work planned for between the new wharves after their construction.
At the moment, the reclamation work is ‘‘noncomplying’’, meaning it will be difficult for Ports of Auckland to get consent. Earlier this month the council agreed to look at easing the restriction and make reclamation a ‘‘discretionary’’ activity.
While the Bledisloe extensions are not reclamations, the port says it will also need to reclaim 3 hectares from the harbour in the near future.
A group of city councillors opposed to further reclamation forced an extraordinary meeting of the council’s Development Committee tomorrow, saying they were given incomplete information on Ports of Auckland’s plans.
The port has consent for the Bledisloe extensions, which are allowed under the region’s Coastal Policy Statement. The consent did not need to be publicly notified, council officials say.
Secretary of heritage group Civic Trust Auckland, Audrey van Ryn, says Queen’s Wharf is a public gathering place and the viewshaft out to the harbour entrance needs to be preserved.
She likens Wednesday’s protest to the recent successful protest against the proposed felling of six old pohutukawa trees next to the northwestern motorway which were threatened by a roading development.
‘‘People don’t want to lose something that’s precious to Auckland,’’ she says.
Councillor Chris Darby says the public has expressed a real concern about the governance of the ports and of the Auckland region.
‘‘I’m aligned with those concerns.’’
Local ward councillors were denied their request to speak at yesterday’s meeting. The public were also excluded, which is concerning, Darby says.
Ports of Auckland spokesman Matt Ball says Ports of Auckland does not have to consult the public on the extension, but will have to before a reclamation.
Ports of Auckland has followed due process in terms of the extension, he says.
Devonport-Takapuna Local Board chairman Mike Cohen and Waitemata Local Board chairman Shale Chambers were both denied their requests to speak at yesterday’s council meeting on the reclamation policy.
Cohen and Chambers were there on Wednesday to support the group of more than 50 protesters.
Protest organiser Julie Stout from Urban Auckland says the ports need to learn to be ‘‘good neighbours’’ by talking to the local community and fitting in with what the public wants.
Transport Blog editor and Urban Auckland member Patrick Reynolds says Wednesday’s protest was not about numbers.
Reynolds says he hopes the demonstration will make the council listen to what the public wants.
He is also calling for the Government to develop a national ports strategy.
‘‘They have a strategy of having no strategy.’’
Concerned: Audrey van Ryn, left, and Gloria Jenkins from Civic Trust Auckland join protesters at Queens Wharf on Wednesday.