Sailing

Team NZ all smiles at its Cup home

The $212 million home for the next America's Cup is one that no one wanted - but everyone is now happy to make their own.

The Auckland Council agreed just before the Easter break to support an America's Cup village known as the Wynyard-Hobson option, something of a camel from six months of work by a three-humped committee, at a cost of $98.5 million to Auckland ratepayers, with the balance covered by taxpayers nationwide.

Included in the Government's contribution is a $40 million event hosting fee direct to Team NZ.

The seven bases for the America's Cup defender and likely challengers will be across three wharves, Hobson - which will be extended into the Waitemata Harbour for a double base for challenger of record Luna Rossa of Italy - Halsey, where Emirates Team NZ will take over the public Viaduct Events Centre rent-free for at least four years, and the old Tank Farm land and Wynyard Wharf for the rest.

The Wynyard-Hobson option agreed by the council, the Government and Team NZ is cheaper than previous plans but has less to offer in permanent, structural legacy for the Auckland waterfront. 

All three parties wanted something else, with at least one plan advocated by each of them and with one having opened and closed for public submissions for resource consent. That plan will now be withdrawn and the new choice advanced for planning consents.

Big base for Team NZ

Publicly, Team NZ couldn't be happier with its use of the striking white building that is the Viaduct Events Centre, currently a conference and function venue that most lately hosted the gala dinner for visiting former US President Barack Obama.

The team chief executive, Kevin Shoebridge, told councillors at their meeting last Thursday: "The Viaduct Events Centre is probably the best thing that could happen towards making a successful defence of the America's Cup.

"It means a lot. We can now launch race boats in April 2019 and sail out of a permanent facility. We would have been operating over myriad of places. That's a real positive. From the public's point of view it is going to be a fantastic location."

Team NZ will take over the centre, rent-free with the cost of up to $13 million over four years covered by the council, as soon as planning permission to change the structure and use of the facility is through.

Documents to the council say the eastern side of the centre will be permanently altered to allow the movement and launch of the race boats directly to the water.

The public will be able to access a viewing platform at the northern, harbour, end of the building and will be free to walk up Halsey Wharf beside the centre.

Shoebridge said the three challenger double-sized bases, for two-boat teams, have already been committed despite entries not closing for the Cup until June, with a late-entry deadline of the end of this year.

He predicted the employment benefits to the region would be substantial, with Team NZ itself requiring 30 non-race boats for the event as well as "close to $20 million of race boats for ourselves". The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) estimated late last year the Cup would create between 4700 and 8000 jobs over the period.

Challenge of record Luna Rossa would bring a big contingent of sailing and support staff and would arrive earlier than others, probably being in Auckland for a year before the summer 2021 event.

Hosting fee explained

Team NZ's Tina Symmans told councillors the $40 million hosting fee from the Government was actually an 'event' fee and did not cover all the costs of staging the event, which the team was underwriting.

The public funding was "a contribution towards running the event on-water and off-water. One of the biggest costs is broadcasting of a quality that can be screened to the world. We have made an absolute commitment that this event will be free-to-air and free admission to all those in Auckland and around the country".

Event costs extended "right down to Portaloos".  The Volvo Ocean Race attracted an estimated 20,000 visitors a day to the waterfront base but the America's Cup was expected to draw 50,000 a day in the summer of 2020/21.

Symmans said the World Masters Games in Auckland had cost the Government $11 million, with a similar figure put in by Auckland.

Of the new venue for the village and bases, she said: "I think it's fair to say everybody's compromised".

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the three parties had come a long way since December, when the council unanimously backed another plan to extend Halsey Wharf by 75 metres into the harbour to house the bulk of the team bases. "That was the best information we had at the time."

He and councillors praised the final option for stopping encroachment onto the harbour, and the only major encroachment through the extension of Hobson Wharf as a new site for a public facility on the waterfront in the future.

He highlighted the early removal of the hazardous storage tanks on the old Tank Farm as a big plus from the subsequent negotiations. "With three partners, not always working smoothly and harmoniously, in the end we are together."

The Wynyard-Hobson option also created a sheltered space, through building breakwaters, for a range of future marine events. 

"We've created a fit-for-purpose facility for Team NZ which we believe is as good as we could have got."

What happens next

The proposal now heads to planning commissioners, with public input, and will take two months longer than had the existing consent application kept going. The first application cost $1.2 million in public money but officials told the council much of that spending would be useful in developing the Wynyard-Hobson option.

In May, councillors will hear how much money they will need to bring forward to pay for an estimated $260 million to $280 million of capital works in the waterfront and downtown areas to cope with the Cup and the 2021 meeting of Apec leaders.

The Tank Farm land needs to be vacated, with the council covering the cost of relocating the multinational bulk storage businesses, and then cleared and decontaminated so the mix of permanent and temporary structures for team bases can be started.

On the decontamination process, councillors were told there would be 'vapour barriers' under the buildings as a protection against fumes from fuel-contaminated land below.

It was difficult to estimate total final costs of the decontamination when possible unforeseen issues could arise. The land would be readied first for the Cup bases and further work could be needed when the long-term public park and developments on Wynyard Point were undertaken.

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