new auckland

Contaminated land holds up America’s Cup

Protracted negotiations to find a home for an America's Cup village in Auckland may now hinge on how fast contaminated land at the Tank Farm can be cleared.

Team New Zealand said a new plan by the Government and Auckland Council was dependent on the "availability of specialist construction resource in an already stretched environment".

It said it could not support the plan yet. "There is little point in agreeing to a plan that can't be delivered on time."

At the same time, the major landholder in the area, Viaduct Harbour Holdings, has rejected the new plan outright as "unacceptable", sharpening tensions over the city's ability to deliver a village for bases on the waterfront.

Under the latest proposal, most of the America's Cup bases would be on the old Tank Farm land now known as Wynyard Point, with Team NZ forced off its planned permanent home on Hobson Wharf extension and back onto a reduced extension on Halsey Wharf (from 75m back to 45m beyond today's structure).

The government minister overseeing the negotiations, David Parker, has pushed relentlessly for more use of the tank farm land and reduced extensions to wharves so encroachment into the Waitemata Harbour is contained. 

But to base the yachting syndicates on the tank farm land two big users, Stolthaven and Bulk Storage Terminals need to agree to end leases and remove their tanks early, presumably for handsome compensation. According to Team NZ, Stolthaven has been persuaded by the government but negotiations continued with Bulk Storage Terminals.

Emirates Team NZ chief Grant Dalton said: "This negotiation needs to be concluded before this plan could be considered viable. We are unsure of the timeframe for those negotiations to be concluded.

"The Wynyard Wharf tank removal and remedial work are complex and time consuming. We, with Government and Council, have concerns about the works timetable and availability of specialists construction resource in an already stretched environment.

"The Government is seeking a second expert opinion on the timetable issue and we support them in doing this."

The America's Cup holders have a meeting with challengers in Europe within weeks and Dalton said "confirmation of Auckland as a venue and the class rule [covering what types of boats] are eagerly awaited by them".

An existing America's Cup Village plan known as Wynyard Basin and based mainly around an extended Halsey Wharf (out a further 75m), with the Team NZ base on a lengthened Hobson Wharf and some changes to Wynyard Wharf has been lodged for resource consent by the Auckland Council, with submissions from the public ending today.  It involves wharf work and other development costing an estimated $130m with up to $80m in spending on other public infrastructure and an unknown amount in shifting existing users.

Today Ngati Whatua Orakei revealed it is opposed to the Wynyard Basin plan. Spokesperson Ngarimu Blair said: "The iwi’s objection is based on the recognition of the Waitemata Harbour as a taonga.

“The mauri of the harbour has been significantly degraded from extensive reclamations and port developments, and we do not support further unwarranted intrusions like the large concrete wharf structure proposed by Panuku that will extend 75m into the Waitemata.”

“We are also concerned about the two proposed 110m concrete wharf structures on Wynyard Wharf, which we were not notified about in our meetings with Panuku.”

He said Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei would prefer an option that has minimal impact on the Harbour and is more cost effective.

Resource management lawyers have argued the current application is unlikely to be able to be amended, or substituted for a new tank farm one, but would have to be replaced if this new plan was adopted, with extra time needed for the process to get to the point it is at now.

Dalton's statement on the latest Parker plan, which he suggested is "closer to the one designed by Viaduct Harbour Holdings" and "on the face of it and to the layman's eye looks like it could work" was hardly a striking endorsement.

"None of this is ideal but we will continue to work through the challenges in an effort to see the America's Cup hosted in 2020-2021 in Auckland.

"It is where our home and where our heart is. The Council and Government have their own challenges and we recognise they are doing their utmost to meet them."

The Viaduct Harbour Holdings chief executive Angela Bull called today's plan an "expensive, unnecessary and environmentally irresponsible rugby field-sized expansion into Aucklanders' harbour."

She appeared to target for criticism Team NZ's own revised double-base, now proposed for the end of Halsey Wharf. That would require the 45m by 220 metre expansion of Halsey Wharf, she said, and be a permanent encroachment when Team NZ could be housed elsewhere.

Richard Gladwell, writing on the Sail World website has reported  "time is now even more important than money" in achieving adequate Auckland bases for the Cup defence.

"The base construction needs to start in September of this year for bases to be available in October 2019 so the teams can get to Auckland and set up for a summer training and testing at the Cup venue.

"Normally that would start in October 2019, running to the end of the Cup regatta and end of the summer in April 2021. If the project is delayed through restarting resource consent applications then the visiting teams would be forced into running a two-season strategy. That menas they will sail their first AC75s in the northern hemisphere in 2019-20 and then relocate to New Zealand in tyhe period June- October 2020.

"This second scenario at least halves the economic benefit to New Zealand Inc from the team spend."

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