City get­ting in good shape for big events

Weekend Herald - - Viewpoints -

With the All Blacks in town and their first test of the rugby sea­son against France ready to kick off tonight, it is a morn­ing to savour the city’s prepa­ra­tions for big events. Down­town Auck­land is a construction site these days but that will pass. To­day we re­port that the ma­jor projects are ex­pected to be ready by 2021 when the city hosts an Apec sum­mit and the Amer­ica’s Cup.

A 39-level tower will stand where the Down­town shop­ping cen­tre used to be. It will be called Commercial Bay, the name ac­knowl­edg­ing that it stands where the his­toric bay ex­isted be­fore it was re­claimed early in Auck­land’s colo­nial set­tle­ment. The bay is the rea­son cen­tral Auck­land is where it is, it was found to be the best an­chor­age on the south shore of the Waitem­ata¯ when Gov­er­nor Hob­son was se­lect­ing a site for his cap­i­tal.

To­day’s Auck­lan­ders will soon know Commercial Bay as an of­fice tower with a range of restaurants and bars and 120 shops on its lower floors and laneway. It prom­ises to pro­vide con­nec­tions to Brit­o­mart and the har­bour fer­ries ter­mi­nal and re­store Queen El­iz­a­beth Square. Be­neath it will be un­der­ground rail lines, with the first sec­tion of the Cen­tral Rail Link laid and land­scaped.

That will re­store Al­bert St to its for­mer glory. The first sec­tion of the rail link was the only one sched­uled for cut-and-cover construction. The rest, be­yond Wyn­d­ham St, will be tun­nelled, which should mean less un­sightly dis­rup­tion of streets and re­tail busi­ness on the sur­face.

The plan we out­line to­day also en­vis­ages more open space along­side Quay St and it should also look for a way to di­vert most of mo­tor traf­fic. Auck­lan­ders will re­mem­ber how lively Quay St briefly be­came as a pedes­trian area dur­ing the 2011 Rugby World Cup. It con­nected the newly ac­quired Queens Wharf with Brit­o­mart and the Viaduct.

In 2021, the ful­crum of fes­tiv­i­ties on the wa­ter­front will be a lit­tle fur­ther west, run­ning from the Viaduct to the Wyn­yard Quar­ter. The Amer­ica’s Cup will be cen­tred on the Viaduct Events Cen­tre, the base for Emi­rates Team New Zealand, with the chal­lengers’ bases ei­ther side on Hob­son and Wyn­yard wharves. Team NZ is promis­ing that the Events Cen­tre will be a base for the pub­lic too, with plenty of yacht­ing-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties and at­trac­tions.

The city’s wider sport­ing fa­cil­i­ties could also be much im­proved by 2021, now that the first move has been made. The news yes­ter­day that Speed­way has agreed to re­lin­quish Western Springs for a new track at Wiri opens the way for the sta­dium reshuf­fle long pro­posed by the Auck­land Coun­cil’s events agency, Ateed. A proper cricket ground can be es­tab­lished at Western Springs, giv­ing Auck­land a venue of the shape and scale in which test cricket should be played.

With­out cricket, Eden Park will be­come an even more dif­fi­cult eco­nomic propo­si­tion but this is not the day to worry about that. The park is a sell-out for the test. When it is full it has the at­mos­phere of all great sta­di­ums. Noth­ing com­petes with the roar of a large crowd, un­less it is the silent ten­sion that gripped the ground when the All Blacks and France fought out the fi­nal of the World Cup.

Events such as that leave us thirst­ing for more and it is ex­cit­ing to see the city get­ting in good shape for its next big per­for­mance in just three years time.

Auck­lan­ders will re­mem­ber how lively Quay St briefly be­came as a pedes­trian area dur­ing the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

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