16 Jul 2017

Insight: Tacking towards the next America's Cup

Peter Burling with cup and ticker tape in Wellington
From Insight, 8:10 am on 16 July 2017

As the America's Cup celebration parades end, the planning for the next race is getting under way. Where will the next challenge be held and what form will it take?

Team New Zealand this week switches its focus from celebrating its America's Cup triumph to planning its defence in three to four years.

The biggest challenge ahead of that defence is the creation of a venue, expected to be on Auckland's downtown waterfront, which will involve significant public investment.

The team also needs to conclude talks on the next regatta's protocol, which will set the rules over what sort of boat will be raced, the number of sailors required to be from a team's home country, and timing issues.

The venue is the most complex question. The government has already formed a ministerial group to work with the team and Auckland Council on that and other issues related to staging the event, which is comparable in scale only to the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff is treading a cautious line, prepared to be the champion of creating a venue, but also coy on the degree to which the city's ratepayers might fund it.

"I'm one of their biggest fans, but I also have a fundamental responsibility to spend Aucklanders' money wisely, and on their priorities," he told RNZ.

The last time the Cup came to Auckland, after the team's first victory in San Diego in 1995, the local body entity Auckland Regional Services Trust led public investment in transforming the then-industrial Viaduct Basin and reclaiming land that was used for team bases in the 2000 and 2003 regattas.

That land has since been built out with luxury apartments, and most recently building work on a hotel got under way on the former Team New Zealand base site.

Head and shoulders pic

Alan Sefton Photo: ( RNZ / Todd Niall )

Alan Sefton, who was Team New Zealand's executive director at the time of the Sir Peter Blake-led victory, said Auckland should remember that win's legacy.

"Without Team New Zealand there wouldn't be a Viaduct Harbour, or a Wynyard Quarter. They have been the catalyst for everything that has happened down there, and it's a part of town now of which we can all be very proud," Mr Sefton said.

Peter Winder, who is now a local government consultant, earlier worked for Tourism New Zealand and negotiated the government's investments in the team and the 2000 and 2003 events. He is urging Auckland to take that kind of long-term view on the value of investing.

"The first defence of the America's Cup was one of the key turning points in the development of Auckland," he said.

"The pride that emerged in Auckland through that defence, through the redevelopments that happened, through the public gatherings, was one of the key things in helping provide Auckland a real sense of achievement, or purpose. That's the sort of opportunity that sits in front of us."

"It's the sort of thing that changes cities," he told RNZ.

Auckland has several options to create space for teams and a Cup Village, but none without snags.

Converting existing wharves, such as Queens or Captain Cook, would require the port company to re-locate some operations. Building bases on or alongside the tank farm and bulk fuel area at Wynyard Wharf would also require major relocation.

A new-build possibility is a tentatively-planned wharf extension at Halsey Street, running parallel to the existing wharf and the harbour edge.

That may upset those who have campaigned about the further encroachment of wharves into the harbour.

Architects drawing of moorings and a park and a red sock statue

Architects have been quick to come up with suggestions for a new Cup Village - including this one, from Mitchell & Stout. Photo: (Supplied / Mitchell & Stout )

Architects in Auckland have been quick to illustrate what a new round of waterfront transformation could look like.

Mitchell & Stout have proposed converting the paved Te Wero Park, mostly used for car parking, into a harbour-side greenspace - and Isthmus Group have floated a thought-provoking concept of a floating archipelago of public spaces.

Architect David Mitchell told RNZ the momentum provided by the event would be useful.

"We know that we need these things to give us a few 'revs', and I think the Cup will give us revs for the next few years... We may as well use them, and particularly advance the public cause."

Architect plan

Isthmus Group's concept of a floating archipelago of public spaces on the waterfront Photo: ( Supplied / Isthmus )

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