Queens Wharf is one of the jewels of Auckland’s crown, it is a huge space at over 2.5 hectares right in the heart of town at the end of Queen St. Up until now most of the debate has been around using it for party central for the RWC and whether we should keeping or removing the sheds that were on there (the back shed has been removed and the front one will be done up). Outside of the RWC it is expected that the wharf be a public space, Mike Lee has described it as the ‘Peoples Wharf’, and crucially its other main use is expected to be a cruise terminal for the fast growing cruise business.
The cruise terminal is needed because the existing one on Princess Wharf can only handle one ship at a time yet there are now times when more than that is expected to be in port at the same time. One thing we have been told is that the wharf is big enough to handle both its role as a cruise terminal and a public space but is it? Even it is what is the environment going to be like and will ordinary Aucklanders be welcome when a cruise ship is in town? Today we got that answer.
My wife and I have enjoy having lunch on the wharf, while it definitely needs some improvement it is a neat space and nice and quiet, a great place to relax on a nice sunny day, something we decided we wanted to do today. The Pacific Pearl is now based in Auckland and has been tied up at the wharf for a few days and today it looked like it was getting ready to leave. This meant there was a lot of stuff going on, particularly passengers arriving ready for their trip. The first thing was the entrance to the wharf was taken over and turned into a driveway through which a constant stream of cars and shuttles were flowing in both directions dropping people off. Other parts of the wharf had been commandeered for car parking or other activities leaving only a 2m wide path next to the driveway for people to get to the check in facilities in the remaining shed. Past the shed the Wharf was closed off so far from being a peoples wharf it was set up almost exclusively for the cruise ship and even then a driveway was used just to save some people walking 150m.
Of course the cruise industry will say they are only really here for a few months a year but the key thing is that is the months when us locals will most want to use it i.e. in summer. If we are going to see the wharf effectively closed off when a ship is in town is it worth it? I think not so what are the other options?
Personally I think we should be putting the terminal on Captain Cook Wharf, it is still right next to the centre of town and next to Britomart. It would actually give us the ability to have two ships processed on at the terminal at once along with a third on Princess Wharf so is better future proofed for growth. It would need to be lengthened but it should give
But are there other benefits of having it on Captain Cook Wharf? Yes they are, It wouldn’t interfere with any future expansion of the ferry terminal and it gives us a perfect place from where to pedestrianise the street from. Pedestrianising the street is something suggested by urban designer Jan Gehl and something that would be hard if the terminal was on Queens Wharf. This is because any ship will need to resupplied by trucks, have customers and immigration staff and their equipment along with tourist buses, taxis and plenty of other associated vehicles to service it. Potentially it could also be designed to be able to be used things, it could have been a good location to be combined with the national convention centre the government wants to build to get better year round use of the site. It could be a good place for corporate functions or perhaps combined with an indoor market, the key is to get good year round use from it.
Queens Wharf showed today the exact reasons why we shouldn’t have a cruise terminal on it, it is probably the biggest jewel in the waterfront crown and one we can’t afford to stuff up so lets move the cruise terminal and leave the wharf to be the open public space and peoples wharf it should be. Having it as a public park would make it some special that we can all be proud of