America's Cup village alternative under discussion today

12:36 pm on 23 January 2018

Analysis - Auckland Council and government officials meet today to talk about the possibility of an alternative plan for an America's Cup village on the city's waterfront.

Peter Burling holds the America's Cup during the Wellington victory parade.

Team New Zealand Peter Burling holds the America's Cup during a victory parade. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

A fuel storage company, which has agreed in principle to move out of the way of the government's preferred village layout, will also be present - but many questions about the options on the table remain unanswered.

The meeting is being driven by Environment Minister David Parker to see if a village can be built with less expansion of wharves than the current proposal.

The Halsey Basin option, favoured by the council and cup defender Team New Zealand, is considered to meet all design and timetable criteria, and cost $128 million.

The government's preferred Wynyard Point option is nominally cheaper at $112 million, but with relocation costs initially tipped at up to $100 million.

In the meantime, the Auckland Council is pushing on with the Halsey Basin option, with resource consent applications opening for submissions next week.

While the government's moves are seen by some as raising uncertainty about the hosting the 2021 event, in reality there's no sign yet of a viable alternative to the council's plan.

The layout which the government wanted explored was deemed too costly, too small, and not doable

The layout which the government wanted explored was deemed too costly, too small, and not doable. Photo: Supplied / Auckland Council

One of the biggest hurdles to the government's hopes of accommodating more of the teams on Wynyard Point is the need to move privately-owned fuel storage tanks, due to remain until 2022.

Norwegian-owned multinational Stolthaven has told the government that in principle it is prepared to move early, but only if it's paid a $6.1m fee to break its lease.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff speaking at the parade held in his city to welcome Team NZ home, 6 July 2017.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff at a Team New Zealand parade. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Bigger unknowns though are who would bear the cost of the move, whether costly decontamination of the land would be needed and, crucially, whether all of that could be consented and done in the tight timeframe.

"I think its good they've indicated a willingness to move, but they are saying it depends on its parent company and customers and they're not sure it can be done yet," mayor Phil Goff said.

Mr Parker was not available for comment.

Timing and the certainty about being able to complete the proposed village by deadline is critical.

Auckland Council development agency Panuku said resource consents need to be secured by mid-2018, and the village be ready for teams to arrive by mid-to-late next year.

The Wynard Point option still requires extending Halsey Street Wharf, but by 15m rather than 73m, although Hobson Wharf will need a slightly longer extension under the proposal.

The design accommodates only seven teams, not the eight sought by Team New Zealand, and comes with other complications such as the need to close roads.

It could also compromise future development by occupying land planned as public space or for commercial development in the long-standing plan to convert Wynyard Point from an industrial site, to prime waterfront real estate.

While the government and council currently favour different options, RNZ understands the pair are likely to agree soon on whichever emerges as the most feasible, certain, and affordable.

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