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Examining the Future of Auckland Port

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Auckland Port is potentially on the verge of being relocated and reclamation plans have been drawn up to move the ports to a new home, in the Manukau Harbour or the Firth of Thames. While the port has played a tremendous role in the development of Auckland, today the current site has become increasingly polluted and constricted, making it unsuitable for long term operation. There have been ongoing discussions to revitalise the area, once the move is complete. There’s no doubt Auckland can benefit from a new area, provided we repurpose the port for alternative uses, that are viable for the long-term.  

 As expected, the relocation plans have attracted both critics and supporters. The plans have been criticised for the cost of moving, which has been predicted to be between $4 billion to $5.5 billion. This number could be even higher depending on how much connecting infrastructure needs to be built. In spite of the controversy, plans and discussions appear to be moving forward, so we need to think strategically about the future. If we are to revitalise the area, we need to ensure it fits in with the rapidly expanding city, and that it’s socially, environmentally and economically viable.

What’s clear is that relocating the ports of Auckland presents a great opportunity for Auckland to provide growth for the city. Whether the land is used for housing, offices, retail or public spaces, there are range of ways that Auckland could redevelop the site that would benefit the city long-term. One idea that was put forward earlier this year is to create an underground waterfront stadium. Dubbed the “The Crater”, the idea was conjured up by Auckland designer, Phil O’Reilly. The stadium would sit on the waterfront but would be sunk underground to avoid being a visual barrier. If it were to be built, the concept would be a world first and it would set Auckland apart as a unique and innovative city. Any traditional structure would have to be truly exceptional to compete with other structures around the world.

It only takes a glance at Sydney’s Bangaroo Reserve, to see how we could redefine the waterfront in Auckland CBD. Bangaroo is a new harbourside renewal project, that is expected to be a lasting legacy of the 21st century, when it’s finally completed. It will have a 2km waterfront walkway, plazas, parks and homes, as well as cafes and restaurants. Also, it’s estimated that the Bangaroo reserve will contribute an estimated $2 billion every year to the economy. So, if Auckland were to build their own harbourside project, there could be some serious net benefit for the economy, and the country would eventually earn back the money spent on moving the ports.

For now, the current Auckland Port is being improved to make sure it stays in good condition. In the short-term, there are plans to expand the foreground of the Bledisloe Wharf at the Auckland harbour, increasing its capacity to make more space for large ships and general cargo.

To ensure we make the right decisions for the future of Auckland’s waterfront, we need to investigate all the options and carefully work through any economic and environmental issues. If we replace the ports with a city-defining waterfront, just imagine the great social and cultural impact for both current and future generations living in Auckland.

Article written by Andrew Stevenson, Civil & Infrastructure consultant. 

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