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The convention centre and transport

The deal between the government and Sky City for a new convention centre has been announced this morning.

Details of the controversial SkyCity convention centre deal with the Government have been announced this morning – and the listed casino operator will pay $402m for the new centre.

The centre is expected to generate $90m of revenue each year. SkyCity will meet the full cost of the centre and be allowed to have 230 extra poker machines. Its exclusive license will be extended to 2048.

It will cost $315 million to build and fit-out, while the land will be worth $87m.

Construction on the centre is expected to begin in 2014 and open in 2017.

Now I’m not going to comment on the moral debate surrounding this agreement, that can be left to other sites. What I am more interested in is looking at are the potential benefits to some of the transport projects that we strongly believe in.

SkyCity proposed National Convention Centre May 2013


Sky City is surely one of the biggest beneficiaries of the CRL with its properties either right next to the proposed Aotea station which is expected to become the busiest station on the network. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if they have already been considering ways to tap into it and funnel passengers from the station through to their premises. The proposed convention centre is less than 200m from the station meaning that will be very easy to access for locals visiting or working at the site.

CRL and Sky City

However if we believe the claims of Steven Joyce (and I don’t tend to believe them) many of the visitors will come from overseas. Those visitors will need to get from the airport to the city. While a good deal are likely to do so via taxis, another project could change that.

Rail to the Airport

We keep getting told that even with massive investment in new roads, congestion is only going to get worse. Even today getting from the airport to the city can take more than an hour outside of the peak. The rail network can avoid that congestion and deliver reliable journey times. Connecting rail to the airport, combined with the CRL means that visitors could be whisked from the terminal straight to the heart of town in around 35 minutes. Further if they are staying in one of the Sky City hotels then it would be super easy for them to reach straight from the station.

CRL, Airport and Sky City

Of course a rail connection to the airport isn’t just about people travelling but actually helps to connect the entire south west of the city.

Hobson and Nelson St

Hobson and Nelson Sts currently seem to just be giant traffic sewers whose sole purpose is to funnel as many vehicles as possible to/from the motorways. This has meant that the area has become a pretty horrid place for anyone not in a car. This blog has long called for this to be addressed with our preferred solution being to once again make these streets two way. We first raised the issue a few years ago and the idea quickly caught on, even making it into the councils City Centre Master Plan however it is something we haven’t heard about for a while. With the announcement of the convention centre perhaps it is time for this idea to float back to the surface.

Not only would it help in making these streets nicer places, I believe it could also assist in improving the flow of traffic as currently Hobson St especially gets clogged up in the afternoons as people end up blocking lanes as they try to get into the get into the lanes for the motorway they want to access.

Sky City Hobson St

In saying all of this, SkyCity don’t seem to care about any of this with the herald reporting.

The company said as well as the convention and exhibition space, there will be at least 780 carpark and a new linkway bridge over Hobson St.

This is on top of their almost 2000 carparks. Perhaps they are expecting all of these promised international visitors to drive their cars to New Zealand? Adding so many extra carparks certainly isn’t going to help in the councils aims to reduce the number of vehicles in the CBD or to improve the the quality of our streets for pedestrians. This is further reinforced by the building of an airbridge to keep people away from the area. That doesn’t bode well level of interaction we can expect the building to have with the street meaning we will potentially see more gaping holes dedicated to moving cars into underground parking buildings, like the current casino building does (above).

69 comments to The convention centre and transport

  • Ari

    Hobson/Nelson won’t get touched until after CRL. Besides, two way streets are stupid from a land usage perspective. I just don’t understand the reasoning behind it. retain the one way system that everyone is used to, remove the two outer lanes completely and turn them into pedestrian areas, leaving only 3 lanes for vehicles. or have a linear park down one whole side using 2 lane widths. Making it two way with 4 lanes means you will still have 25% more road space than the one way option. what do you prefer, a lane for vehicles or more equivalent pedestrian space? because that’s what it comes down to. any way I look at it, a two way conversion project is just a big waste of money that could be put elsewhere to improve PT.

    Two way conversion will also make congestion worse (not that thats a bad thing) and will increase average pedestrian delays compared to what they are now.

    • “two way streets are stupid from a land usage perspective”
      Have you had a walk down either of these streets? They are basically wastelands consisting of access ways and boarded up buildings with highly compromised land values. There are few, if any, street functioning uses.

    • @Ari did I mention this report in one the last 2-waying posts?

      In summarising the literature-
      -”two-way streets create higher levels of economic activity and improve the livability of downtown areas”
      -”Two-way streets have also been found to be safer than one-way streets, for several reasons. Although intersections of two-way streets have more conflicting maneuvers, one-way streets correlate with decreased levels of driver attention. One-way streets also allow higher travel speeds since signal timing results in less frequent stops for vehicles. Pedestrians also prefer crossing two-way streets since drivers tend to travel more slowly on them and vehicular conflicts are more predictable.”

    • Sailor Boy

      I think it would be a much better idea to simply perform a huge narrowing on the bottom portions. Give a huge pedestrian/ cycle/ greenspace belt on one side for the first couple of blocks and gradually get more and more car focused as you go up.

  • Ben S

    A side question – does this mean they’re going to knock down the Albion Hotel? While that place is a admittedly a munterfest these days it’s still one of AKL’s oldest pubs and a great heritage building in a style that’s rare these days….

    • Steve D

      The Albion Hotel is owned by a private individual with no connection to Sky City as far as I know. The rest of the property in that block fronting onto Wellesley Street is owned by this outfit – Sky City also haven’t approached TVNZ about buying any of the property to the north. There’s only about 7000 sqm owned by Sky City at the moment (although who knows what deals they might have made).

  • Hopefully the Council will man up and prevent as much parking going in as possible- hell, make them build an actual crèche instead.

  • KLK

    Time for the council to back up words with action. No new car parks allowed in addition to the existing 2000.

    If the purpose is to attract international events bringing in people from overseas, you can’t say you need to provide carparks for them. Surely the car parks are nothing more than an extra revenue source for Sky City, earned from Aucklanders wanting to park downtown without necessarily going to the casino.

  • Christopher T

    The Albion is not the only heritage structure under threat from this farcical scheme; there’s also a rather rare Lippincott building (as in the architect of the University of Auckland clock tower building) fronting on to Nelson Street. As usual, AC will probably work itself into all sort of tangles just to ensure these things are demolished.

  • Glen

    While I definitely agree with the need for pedestrian amenity improvements and that the CRL would have huge synergistic benefits for the convention centre, and I don’t believe that the CBD needs any more parking, there could (on a macro level) be some sort of benefit from Sky City building more parks at the convention centre…

    that is, presumably on such a smallish site the car parks would be underground like the current Sky City buildings. If more parks were provided at the convention centre then perhaps that would be an opportunity to demolish some of the ugly-as-sin multi-story car parks that blight the CBD, and replace it with an actual building that people can use to do something, increasing the role of the CBD as a destination. If the total number of car parks doesn’t change, then even the road-a-holics couldn’t complain… surely?… just a thought :)

  • Christopher T

    If that’s incorporating it into the design then you might more properly describe it as an egregious example of façadism, an unpleasant, anti-historical cosmetic treatment that debases every heritage principle ever established.

  • “Even today getting from the airport to the city can take more than an hour outside of the peak.”

    I usually use the Airbus service to find my way in and out of town when visiting. Regardless of the time of day, so far it has been fairly consistently a 45 minute trip, perhaps 50mins at most. Not sure how long the typical car/taxi trip can take, and the Airbus gets to take advantage of bus lanes on a little bit of the trip (but not much, esp. offpeak). So maybe in the interim we should simply be promoting the Airbus service and improving the bus priority along its route? (OK, they’ll have to walk an extra block from Queen St to SkyCity unless it is re-routed)

    P.S: interesting to read the info blurb in my Akld hotel room last week that said “allow 45mins for car/taxi to the airport and 1.5hrs for the bus” – clearly they hadn’t taken an Airbus lately…

    • Stu Donovan

      yes I agree – people’s perceptions of how long it takes to get to the airport in Auckland seem rather skewed. It’s a big city – it takes me 30-40 minutes from the top of Symonds Street to the airport almost every time.

  • Kevyn

    Convention centre, casino, car parks…sounds like the downtown Detroit revitalization plan. Just need to add a covered football stadium in the CBD and you’ll be in a real race with Christchurch to be the Detroit of the South Pacific.

    • Yes we know what works and what hasn’t worked the world over for cities:

      What works:
      Investment repurposing industrial waterfronts [harbours and riverside] to mixed commercial, residential, and public space uses.
      Investment in new permanent infrastructure that improves the reach and effectiveness of Public Transit.

      What sucks up public fortunes [and makes private ones] but fails to revitalise cities and communities:
      Convention Centres

      And one of the key features of the three losers is that they always come with huge parking and driving demands, so even if they operate at a profit they do little for the surrounding city as they are one destination centres that draw their own market in and out without engaging with the commercial and public life around. They are usually characterised by dedicated underground parking and even pedestrian circulation devices designed to ensure maximum customer capture [like air bridges].

      It is essential that the Council rides the detail design of this brut as hard as possible, as we have no choice in where it goes or if we have it at all. We are left with Mitigation as our last hope. Damage minimisation.

      • The Mayor seems quite keen on the Casino/convention centre and thinks it will be good for Auckland

        ““I support the convention centre, totally, not only because it will provide jobs for our tourism industry, but for a start it will provide 1000 jobs in the building of it,” Mr Brown said during his joint-address with Auckland Council chief executive Doug McKay.”


        This week, Mr Brown continued to extol the “huge economic” benefits, particularly to unemployed youth at “my community in the south” who would get jobs at the new centre.

        • Yup I know, but there is more than something of the pollyanna in our mayor; it’s his trope, everything is positive. Even when the government flies up and give him a kicking.

          As to the economic benefits of a convention centre, of course there will be a bunch during construction, a sector that is now facing a skills shortage and cost/supply issues around materials.

          But in the longer term the value depends enormously on where it is and the detail of its design, and of course its operations. Like all businesses it is possible for it to be financial successful yet not have a huge economic gain for the city or nation as a whole, or even be negative. This deal already comes with a huge and ongoing cost of gambling externalities to the community, but that will be covered elsewhere as matt says above. What is also important is its economic impact on the city otherwise. And one way that it can bring fewer negatives is if it leans less heavily on the one overloaded transport network and if it reduces its negative impacts by reducing the number of cars it drags into our already car degraded centre city, and how much it turns its back on the surrounding city streets like Skycity mark 1 has.

        • Len gets excited about money being spent in Auckland even if it isn’t what we really need. At Manakau he pushed for the substandard station location simply because he wanted government money spent in the area rather than it go elsewehere.

      • Kevyn

        Patrick, “Yes we know what works and what hasn’t worked the world over for cities:”

        I presume by ‘we’ you mean you, me and most contributors on this forum. Its a pity the current government is amongst the worst for favouring big projects supported by big business investors and dismissing the really important investments as public “wish lists”. Detroit shifted away from that anchor project approach over the last ten years. They have been concentrating on converting vacant commercial buildings into apartments, building a rail trail connected to a waterfront parkway, and were ready to start building seperated cycle lanes in the CBD and light rail from downtown to midtown when the GFC threw the city’s budget over a cliff .

  • KLK

    They are adding something like 270 new machines. So over almost 3 extra car spots for every machine added. WTF?

  • KLK

    I am not against the center and think there is a natural symmetry with the Casino. It will help revitalise an area needing it, spur changes to the surrounds (e.g. two-way streets). And to be fair, Auckland should have such a facility of that size.

    But if we are every going to be serious about access to and within the CBD then it has to start with facilities like this. No new car parks. Prioritise PT and walking access. Future proof for PT. \

    And yes, some grass would be nice…

  • Even if you disregard the gambling issue, Sky City is the wrong venue for a convention centre.A much better option was to convert ASB theatre into a convention centre and then restore St James to take on ASB theatre’s events. Could have been a chance to develop a theatre without any dedicated off street parking and restore some heritage without needing to allow expansion of casino ‘facilities’.

  • Feijoa

    Extra car parks in this area are going to add a lot of problems to an area not short of them (them being both car parks and problems). The southern motorway ramp signals back up into the SkyCity car park, taking 20-30 mins to get out of the building during the evening rush. All of the other streets around here are gridlock, again due to southern motorway queues.

    The times I’ve witnessed the chaos I wonder what a dyed-in-the-wool roading engineers answer would be – a flyover out of SkyCity? 8 lanes on Hobson? Double decker southern motorway to Mt Wellington and beyond?

  • Anyone know which year Auckland City will be officially renamed Sky City?

  • Patrick said
    “And one of the key features of the three losers is that they always come with huge parking and driving demands”

    It doesn’t have to be. The Westpac Stadium in Wellington is a strong example of putting a stadium in a place where public transport can deliver people almost to the door – and it does by train from one direction and buses from two other directions.

    • Yes that’s true which is why it matters profoundly how much parking is allowed, or i should say, how much additional parking.

      Interestingly Eden Park is a good example of a Stadium that causes less harm because it has relatively little parking- but that is by happy accident rather than by design. Huge crowds just melt into the surrounding suburbs, as well as on the trains and buses, which is great for local hospo biz.

    • Steve D

      Although they gave it 800 car parks anyway, just because. We’ve got an excellent example here as well, though – Eden Park, which has no public car parking at all.

  • David O

    There is no question that if they were serious about doing an international standard convention centre that a rail link to the airport would be priority number one, and not 780 additional parking spaces. This is all kinds of depressing. The government’s vision for central Auckland seems to be a cruise liner terminal at one end of Queen St and a soulless conference centre / casino at the other. What about the people who actually have to live here?!

  • David O

    Where do Sky City stand on PT and the CRL? Surely like many other businesses in the CBD they can see the advantages? Or are the $ signs at the prospect of sitting on 2800 parking spaces just too hard to see past?

  • Owen Thompson

    Once again National sell New Zealand workers down the river for a quick dollar. Our laws should not be for sale to the highest bidder.

  • Ari

    yes I’m very aware if the literature and aware of that paper, and it is an interesting idea, though I argue that computer models don’t always reflect reality. And in Auckland we only have a single 1 way pair, not a whole city of one ways, which I am not advocating at all. I just think one way systems have not been done very well in the past and that we have the opportunity to try.

    so are you telling me you would prefer 8 lanes of traffic over two roads with increased congestion and increased pedestrian delay as opposed to 6 lanes of traffic with the remaining width for extra pedestrian space while still retaining similar capacity? Because that is the reality. I just don’t see the logic at all.

    • Ari, it’s currently six lanes one way x2 all the way from the motorway to Fanshawe St. We can easily make it two normal streets of 2×2 lanes and have room for footpath widening, a median with trees, cycle lanes or whatever. Detune speed, increase accessibility.

      A median is good, then you only need to cross two lanes in the gap between phases rather than try and dart across six lanes of defacto motorway traffic. Of if you are concerned about people crossing themselves, we could introduce midblock crossings with refuge in the median.

      Overall, you say increased congestion, I say slower cars. You say increased pedestrian delay, I say less pedestrian delay with more and more regular crossing opportunities. It’s a little telling that you assume that pedestrians would have to soak up all the changes in phasing and that traffic wouldn’t or couldn’t be touched, I say let’s just shorten the phases for traffic if we have to.

      Who cares? For a couple of hours a day its congested at the motorway end, the rest of the time that couplet is lucky to be at a quarter of capacity.

      • Ari

        lame reply system doesn’t work… lost my post. can’t be bothered to repeat. Nick I think you utterly missed my point.

        • Well thanks for trying to respond, but I guess I can’t tell how I missed your point now…

          Generally I just think that one way streets encourage speed (take a look at what people do on Kitchener for example), especially the wider they get. Two way streets mean people and traffic crossing over at times, one way generally means a free pass to put the hammer down. It’s not so much about the amount of width allocated to pedestrians as the overall environment for pedestrians, that includes what the traffic is doing on the other side of the kerb. I would prefer four lanes of slower more cautious traffic to three lanes of speedway.

  • 900 carparks says architect Gordon Moller:

    Just going to be lovely on Hobson Nelson Ari…..

    • Greg N

      These are to feed the locals who need to drive to the casino to gamble on those extra Pokies not for Conference visitors, who ill be staying at the Sky City hotels (of course), so don’t need a car park.

      This is just Sky City doubling down to try take everyone for what they can get as they think we’re bigger fools than we appear..

      • Starnius

        Well, we don’t know what they ASKED for. Maybe they wanted the TVNZ building for free too, and John manfully told them “No”, and have them a few hundred extra car parks as a consolation prize.

  • Peter H

    Thats a car lane in and a car line out of the CBD, just to feed this one car park building, Is Skycity going to pay for that.

    • Given that we can assume AC have to lump these extra car parks, and we certainly don’t want any new m’way lanes, how about we take this opportunity to demolish the worse placed 900 existing parking building car parks in the CBD, sell the land, and get on with improving the Transit…..

      • Sailor Boy

        Downtown first please. That is the biggest waste of space in Auckland, 7 storey parking at the mouth of the cruise terminal, between the Viaduct, Wynyard, Downtown and Britomart, Vector Arena, And soon to be just down the road from Aotea. Plus getting rid of it will do wonders to help buses going North along Fanshawe.

  • Dave W

    Of course the airport link would make sense in any other country, but by the looks of the designs they will use the intercity coach terminal and also have coach parking on the street – a bit like a developing nation- that is New Zealand for you. The plan must be for all those wealthy Star Trek and associated convention delegates to hop on a coach directly from the airport. Would be amusing if the council turned around and introduced a targeted rating for the area or required contribution of a few million towards the CRL as part of resource consent. The house always wins though, so no chance.

    • That coach bay is absolutely horrible for the street…. Hoping it goes.

      • Chris

        I am surprise by your comment.

        Where do you think a long distance bus/coach terminal should be in Auckland, if not on Hobson Street?

        Of all comments about Auckland transport woes, Auckland does not have a bus/coach terminal for long distance bus coach services to and from Auckland, sightseeing bus/coach services to/from Auckland and for AIrbus.

        Currently, long distance bus/coaches, sightseeing bus/coach services and Airbus terminals are scattered around Auckland, which is confusing for the tourists.

        For all the tourists who come to Auckland, have a coach/bus terminal for all long distance, sightseeing and airport services should be under 1 ‘Roof’.

        Upgrading the coach bay at SkyCity (being a short distance from the new Convention Centre) to a operate as Auckland bus/coach terminal or even in the new Convention centre for long distance, sightseeing and airport services, would make sense.

        If the proposed Aotea station being close by, it would be sense.

        • I’m not arguing against coach amenity, just badly designed coach amenity that further violates the street for pedestrians- ever tried walking there? No, me niether. Are you arguing that Hobson is a good place for this because it is already lost as public space?

          Can the coaches not go underground with the parking? At the expense of some of the over supplied parking?

        • ak-Sam

          Why does all coach parking need to be under one roof? The best visitor experience involves getting picked up (with your luggage) from your cruise ship or hotel, not making your way to a horrible terminal to wait for “Coach XYZ99.” Terminals are best for transfers.

          • Chris

            I think you are missing the point.

            Not all long distance bus/coach services pick up from selected hotel only except 2 Great Sights services being – Auckland to Paihia and Auckland to Rotorua services and none pick up from cruise ships

            The rest depart from either from SkyCity (InterCity services) or Quay Street (Naked Bus).

            Also not all sightseeing coach services pick up from Hotels either.

            What Auckland needs are a long distance bus/coach terminal that incorporates a terminal that can cater for all long distance, sightseeing bus/coach services to/from Auckland and for airport bus services preferably close to the CBD or in the new Convention Centre.

            Instead of thinking inwardly about just Auckland, think about people who travel from other areas of NZ into Auckland (including tourists) and have to put up with the shambles of NZ’s largest city.

            It would be nice to arrive in Auckland to a centralized terminal :)

          • Christopher T

            The ideal coach terminal is called a train station; I understand they have them overseas.

          • Sailor Boy

            ^On that point I would like to see a terminal for all intercity coaches in the city. Personally It think it should go above Aotea, but under Albert Street. I’m just not sue we have enough space unfortunately.

          • Nick R

            Not enough space unfortunately.

  • Peter H

    The Quay St (Naked Bus) is a much nicer place to wait for Bus than InterCity Bus stop in Skycity.
    I do think city to city bus terminals are pretty unfrendly places. I am think of Gallieni Paris

  • Some extra car parks in this area are going to add many problems to an area not short of them (them being both car parks and problems).

  • Martin

    @ Peter, some intercity bus terminals like in Munich and London for instance are pretty good. If a dedicated one is built though it needs to be close to a railway station, Britomart, Aotea, K Road etc

  • Peter H

    Martin Thanks for comment.
    Munich Architecturally look interesting. But I do think the kerb side Quay St bus stop is worlds best practice. Most importantly it has very good sight lines, always lots of interesting people around, good lighting, shelter, handy to connecting Rail & Ferry, – Other Good example is Schaffhausen Station

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