Revealed: Auckland Council's billion-dollar transformation plan

Newshub Nation can reveal Auckland Council's latest plans for a billion dollar refresh to Auckland's waterfront.

As Auckland's central residential population has doubled to 50,000 over the past decade, Mayor Phil Goff says it's time to change the city's infrastructure focus.

"We've got to turn this city into a city that's focused on people not cars", he told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

The changes would see Quay Street turn into a waterfront boulevard with new bus stops and a downtown park by the Ferry Building.

Lower Queen Street outside Britomart will become a civic square - catering to the 50 percent increase in foot traffic since 2012.

What lower Queen St could look like.
What lower Queen St could look like. Photo credit: Auckland Transport

But not everyone is a fan of the focus on pedestrians over vehicles.

"If you want a whole lot of people, who go shopping, to not come to the CBD then make it car-free," said National Infrastructure Spokesperson Judith Collins.

The biggest changes are being driven by the upcoming America's Cup - which MBIE estimates could boost New Zealand’s economy by more than $600 million.

The changes would see the Viaduct becoming more pedestrian friendly and a new bridge replacing the crossing toward Wynyard Quarter.

In September, the Environment Court approved wharf extensions for America's Cup village and several bases, to be built in time for the 2021 event.

Revealed: Auckland Council's billion-dollar transformation plan
Photo credit: Auckland Council.

The industrial buildings that currently occupy Wynyard Quarter would make way for new apartments, while the tank farm on Wynyard Point would be replaced with more housing, office space and parkland.

That parkland would create a green link between the waterfront and Victoria Park, and then on to Albert Park in the City Centre thanks to the transformation of Victoria Street into a Linear Park.

Revealed: Auckland Council's billion-dollar transformation plan
Photo credit: Auckland Council.

But the green link won't stop at Albert Park if developer Bill Reid gets his way.

For the past 30 years he has championed the construction of Te Ara Tomo - The Subterranean City, which would open up the old air-raid tunnels under the park, dug to shelter Aucklanders during World War Two.

Two elevator portals at Princes Street and Symonds Street will connect students to AUT and the University of Auckland.

In the others tunnels, there are plans for cafes, wine and cheese boutiques, a museum, and even a glow-worm cave.

What the underground city could look like.
What the underground city could look like. Photo credit: Newshub Nation.

Reid says the construction will be privately funded, with users paying a toll to pass through.

The tunnels are not officially recognised by Council planners yet but are expected to be included in the updated City Centre Masterplan.

The tunnels will make it easier for cyclists and pedestrians coming from Parnell to access the City Rail Link, set to be opened by 2024.

The underground rail loop will see the addition of Aotea Station and Karangahape Station, and a major upgrade of Mount Eden Station.

Auckland's proposed light-rail system.
Auckland's proposed light-rail system. Photo credit: Auckland Transport.

The City Rail Link will also transform Britomart from a dead-end to a through station, more than doubling the number of trains able to use the rail network.

Above ground, Queen Street will be transformed from a car-clogged corridor - to a light rail line, branching South along Dominion Road and the South-Western Motorway to the Airport, and West along the North-Western Motorway to Kumeu.

Auckland Council and the Government want both links to be finished by 2028, and have committed 1.8 billion dollars so far.

Ms Collins calls the idea 'dopey' but says if National gets back into Government and construction has already started, it won't cancel the projects.

"I can't imagine a National Government ever doing what Phil Twyford did to the East-West link, we're not the sort of party that goes and cancels contracts."

One of the most ambitious proposals for the Auckland's waterfront came in May, when Architecture firm Archimedia released a proposal that would completely transform the current container port.

The proposed waterfront transformation.
The proposed waterfront transformation. Photo credit: Archimedia.

It features a sheltered lagoon and four new inner-city beaches for swimming, paddle boarding, waka ama and other pursuits - all protected from onshore winds by eight kilometres of boardwalk.

The plan would also see new parkland, and a Maori cultural centre with a grassed off roof in the shape of an island atoll.

The Auckland Waterfront Consortium recently proposed swapping Eden Park for a 50 thousand-seat stadium on Bledisloe Wharf, which would be sunk into the seabed and require controversial extensions into the Harbour.

One proposal for a waterfront stadium.
One proposal for a waterfront stadium. Photo credit: Newshub Nation.

The plan has political backing, with New Zealand expected to host the Rugby World Cup and Commonwealth Games in the 2030s.

However, not everyone is onboard with the sunken stadium. "How does that connect us as Aucklanders to the Waitamata?" said Auckland Councillor Chris Darby.

Stadiums are very inward and you can dress it up as much as you like around the outer edge, but it's still an inward facing activity."

Archimedia also proposes a downtown stadium, but on unused land next to Spark Arena.

The brake on any and all of these projects is the hugely profitable Ports of Auckland, which paid a 50 million dollar dividend to Auckland Council last month and employs 700 people.  

It wants to build a hotel and multi-story carpark building on Bledisloe Wharf - something Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones intends to scupper.

"Hand back the waterfront to Aucklanders and the new generation and get rid of that industrial legacy and send it to the provinces."

Newshub Nation.

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