Monday, March 13, 2006

Sandra Coney: We have time to get creative

Wynyard Point is a hidden gem on Auckland's city foreshore. Known primarily by fishermen and tour-bus operators, the tip of this piece of reclaimed land is a spectacular spot to from which to see the harbour. Passing yachts are an ever-changing interest and the white tanks of the promontory can be seen from the harbour entrance in the east and from Te Atatu in the west.

A number of people say this area needs an iconic building or structure - art galleries and museums have been mentioned. Whatever is chosen should meet a number of criteria - and be of interest to the city's diverse communities. It should attract people of all ages, especially families, and be involving and interactive, rather than passive. The new development should be democratic, not just the for the elite.

The concept of an Arrival Museum could well fit the bill. All the early peoples of Auckland had to cross the sea to settle here. Maori arrived first in their waka, followed hundreds of years later by settlers from the United Kingdom in sailing boats. After World War II refugees arrived from many parts of Europe, and from the 50s onwards people migrated from the Pacific Islands. The first inward flights were by flying boats, which arrived further along the waterfront at Teal Park (another great view). Later arrivals, such as immigrants from China, Korea, India and so on, may have flown in, but they too had the cross the great oceans.

An Arrival Museum would celebrate these diverse groups by recording their histories and cultures and providing the space for cultural performances and events, exhibitions and displays, story telling, teaching, research and study. Imagine a great forecourt or marae in the front, where by day or on summer nights, Aucklanders and visitors could be treated to the best of the city's rich talent in dance, song, and music. This would be a living museum, dedicated to Auckland people's past, present and future.

People could be encouraged to see the Arrival Museum as the repository for their cultural and family histories. Perhaps Archives New Zealand could move there, instead of in the industrial zone of Mt Wellington. The Family Research Centre at Auckland Library could be located there, so that the museum could be a centre of excellence in research on the settlement and development of the Auckland region.

It would be a great building, with presence and mana. But it would also be exciting, welcoming, alive, and "owned" by the people of Auckland.

Something like this concept is needed to lift the waterfront redevelopment from just another configuration of bars, cafes, shops and apartments.

Viaduct Harbour is just that, and many businesses struggle to stay afloat. There is a "dumbing down" going on in the Viaduct. The wide choice of eateries is succumbing to a slightly upscale version of the 60s beer barns. Several established quality retail businesses are shifting out as the ground rents go up.

The Viaduct remains colourful and active because of the presence of boats. Much of the time, and especially in summer there is a constant flow of boats into the basin. People come to see what the boats are up to. I've seen people happily watch a mast being stepped for hours.

The Viaduct Harbour is the only waterfront water space which provides full public access for viewing activities on the water. The former New Zealand and Alinghi cup base area is being used for marine fitting out and servicing. Dragon boats are racing from this area.

The proliferation of apartment and commercial buildings on the harbour edge means that the old Team New Zealand cup base area is the only place where there is a constant interaction between land and water. Take that away, and Viaduct Harbour will lose its purpose and its interest.

Auckland City Council has ambitions for a marine events centre in this location which would keep it alive. But the council's plan locates this further north. It is vital the old cup base area is used for a purpose that keeps an active edge with the water.

The plan also puts a bridge from Te Wero across to the western side which would further doom Viaduct Harbour to be a dull water space with nothing happening on it.

The bridge is being described as a pedestrian bridge but the plan involves buses crossing. With any sort of regular service, the bridge would be closed more often than open, and the Te Wero area - originally planned as an open plaza - would become a bus route. I have asked in vain for any modelling of the effect of a bridge that is only open twice an hour, on boat traffic into Viaduct Harbour. It hasn't been done. Viaduct Harbour, as a pedestrian precinct and maritime area, should not be sacrificed to the next grand scheme.

Why not a more innovative solution? Use water transport to get people across, like the gondolas or vaporetto of Venice. That wouldn't solve the horrendous problem of how to get the 20,000 projected inhabitants of the Western Reclamation out of the area; that will involve at the very least grade separation at Fanshawe St.

The Wynyard Point redevelopment will take decades to achieve. Plenty of time to think creatively about something splendid, rather than Viaduct Harbour Mark II. The council's plan change, however, will set the parameters of what can happen, so this imminent process is critical to the future success of the whole scheme.

* Sandra Coney lives at Viaduct Harbour and is an Auckland Regional Councillor. This article is her personal opinion.

1 Comments:

Blogger vinny jeet said...

What Sandra wrote is absolutely correct. we don't want another park there.... we want something iconic... waht represents "US"...i agree with her and say that we should pay more attention to this project

10:37 AM  

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