Hundreds of millions has been poured into developing Auckland’s waterfront, and there’s more mega-funding to come. Is it being spent in the right place? 

Plans for Auckland’s first new central city park in 100 years will shortly go to the council for approval. Those plans involve spending $300 million on developing the waterfront over 15 years.

The transformation of Wynyard Point from a toxic industrial wasteland to a park could be the most challenging phase of the entire Auckland waterfront development for Eke Panuku, Auckland Council’s development and property agency.

Today, The Detail takes a tour of the 10-hectare peninsula, once called the tank farm, with Panuku’s Fiona Knox. She shows Sharon Brettkelly how land taken up by the America’s Cup will initially be used as pop up zones; which sites (such as Sealink) will be retained as part of the marine precinct; and how the old tank farm will be decontaminated and turned into a park.

The headland juts out from the Wynyard Quarter and Silo Park and is surrounded by water on three sides, with views of the harbour bridge, Devonport, the Waitemata Harbour and the city itself.

“The whole headland is 10 hectares, five of which will be future public open space that we’re planning for,” Knox says. “The remainder will be development sites over time, street networks and there will be a big linear stretch in front of the bases, that will link back to Daldy St, link back to Victoria Park. So we’re creating this big long green connection from the top of the peninsula back to the city centre.”

Knox explains that before redevelopment starts, the old petrochemical tank farm site has to be decontaminated.

“There’s lots of work to do to remediate the site to make it safe for the public. We’re creating the cake right now and putting the icing on the top.”

The tank farm is going, and ideas are changing over what will take its place. Photo: Sharon Brettkelly

Panuku has been working with mana whenua co-designing the masterplan but a number of parties, including the public, will be consulted. Knox says expectations are high because the land is unique.

The design team will need to factor in climate change resilience as well as ideas for an ecological restoration space for endangered red bill gulls which were relocated from the SeaLink site.

Since 2010, $191m has been invested into the regeneration of Wynyard Quarter, firstly under the guidance of Waterfront Auckland and then Eke Panuku Development Auckland. This investment includes infrastructure for public spaces but does not include additional spending by other council agencies, such as Auckland Transport and Watercare.

Panuku says its work in Wynyard Quarter has generated approximately $1.2b worth of private investment from development partners such as Willis Bond, Precinct Properties and Orams.

Stuff’s Todd Niall explains how the waterfront project has come a long way from where it began, with a shift in thinking that there is economic as well as social value in building a park on Auckland’s waterfront.

“Not everyone is going to agree with the masterplan at the start but you have to remember where it has come from and what was proposed a decade or so ago. In that classic old Auckland way it was going to be largely commercial buildings with a bit of parkland at the end, but we could only have so much parkland because we have to make money off the developments.”

Development of Auckland’s waterfront has gone in fits and starts with the America’s Cups as catalysts for the next stage of work.

“The very first part of North Wharf down in Wynyard Quarter which had the eateries and so on opened in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Nowadays you look at it and it’s no big deal but it was a big leap forward to the way Aucklanders and visitors to Auckland use that part of the waterfront.”

But Niall says a fascinating element of the discussion is how the waterfront is developed alongside, or instead of, developing other parts of Auckland.

“It’s a huge investment. How you deliver something that is as meaningful to someone living in Henderson or Otara as it is to people in the more well-off central suburbs who can pop down there on their e-bike?”

Want more from The Detail? Find past episodes here.

Sharon Brettkelly is co-host of The Detail podcast.

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