Hundreds protest extending Auckland's Queen's Wharf

Hundreds turned out on Sunday to protest against extending Auckland's Queen's Wharf by 90 metres to accommodate large cruise ships.

They took to the wharf and to the water in their hundreds, angered by a proposed $10 million concrete extension which they say is part of an ongoing creep of infrastructure into Waitemata Harbour.

"We can't keep continuing to incrementally fill in the harbour," one person told Newshub. "The harbour's small enough as it is."

"Over time, this harbour's halved in size. Years and years ago it was much wider," another said.

The protest comes after a three-week hearing where a panel heard submissions on Auckland Council's application to build a 90-metre mooring dolphin which it says will allow the cruise industry to grow.

But a tourism expert doesn't think it's justified, arguing the majority of cruise ships are capable of docking at the existing berths and cruise passengers don't spend enough money here to justify it.

"It's questionable whether it's worth it spending that much money and environmental cost on a piece of infrastructure that's hardly ever used," says AUT tourism professor Michael Luck.

And protest organiser Michael Goldwater says the existing port wharf infrastructure could be used instead.

"It doesn't make any sense, it's throwing $10 million-plus of ratepayers' money down the drain," he says.

During his 2016 mayoral campaign, Phil Goff said "not one more metre of the harbour should be infilled for commercial activity".

But today there's a change of tune; he now wants to "ensure the cruise ship industry continues to deliver significant economic benefits" and "I'm aware of the need to protect and enhance our harbour".

Auckland Council says the wharf will have significant economic benefit generated by the cruise industry, including the creation of thousands of jobs and $185 million that passengers are expected to spend on food, retail, accommodation and tours.

But opponents are sceptical of those figures, saying many cruise passengers are likely to stay onboard to eat, sleep and partake in activities.

"Your inland excursions, they may have a lunch or coffee here and there - but the main meals like dinner and breakfast are onboard, and that money doesn't even see New Zealand shores," Prof Luck says.

"They're making up figures, they are literally making up figures," Mr Goldwater says.

In 2018, cruise ship passengers spent $131 million in Auckland.

A decision on whether the wharf extension will go ahead is expected by the end of the month.