'This is ocean sprawl' - concerns over $10m extension to Queens Wharf so mega cruise ships can berth in Auckland harbour

Auckland Councillors and urban planners have concerns over a proposed 85 metre extension to Queens Wharf so that huge, 350 metre plus cruise ships are able to berth in Waitemata Harbour.

The structure which would stick out from Queens Wharf is called a Mooring Dolphin and is estimated to cost Auckland ratepayers $10 million in construction costs.

The Mooring Dolphin would be designed to secure mega 5000 plus passenger cruise ships, which are currently too large to berth on Queens Wharf with mooring lines.

However, Auckland Councillor Chris Darby, who will vote on the proposal tomorrow from Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development, says a physcial "line" on building incursions into Waitemata Harbour finally needs to be established to defend it against commercial interests.

"This is ocean sprawl. The Waitemata Harbour is owned by all of us, and we all have to stand up collectively and defend ocean sprawl on the harbour," Mr Darby said.

"I acknowledge the importance of the tourism industry but we seem, as a city, to have an open door policy with cruise ships. 

"When are we going to say this is enough?

"These are small towns arriving on our door step and they have phenomenal environmental impacts - they burn bunker oil and sulfur."

Julie Stout, chair of architectural lobby group Urban Auckland, also has serious doubts over the benefit of the 85 metre Mooring Dolphin structure.

"This is yet again another encroachment on the free use of the harbour," Ms Stout said.

"Waitemata Harbour is for sailing on, not for building on. This is the busiest part of the harbour and we're going to build this concrete island sticking right out into it."

The Government has decided to step up its monitoring of the half billion dollar sector. Source: 1 NEWS

The proposal before Auckland Council's Governing Body argues the Mooring Dolphin will have a value to Auckland's economy of $36 million over the next 10 years.

Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development destination general manager Steve Armitage said the cruise industry provides $220 million annually to the regional economy and sustains around 4000 jobs.

"The value of the cruise sector extends much further than what visiting passengers may be spending when they disembark in Auckland. Economic contributions also include port charges, fuel, provisions and other services," Mr Armitage said. 

Yet, Ms Stout questioned assurances the Mooring Dolphin Structure will quickly recover the $10 million cost of its construction through tourism revenue.

"The cost benefit of this project is also debatable," Ms Stout said.

"These mega cruise ships are at the budget end of the cruise industry, the passengers are on a budget, they're not big spenders. Is this the tourist market we're after?

"This venture is driven by the cruise ships making money, and we have to pay for it."

Part of the proposal Auckland Council's governing body is being asked to agree with is that the $10 infrastructure costs of the Dolphin's construction will be recovered "over time, through cruise ship passenger levies imposed and collected by Ports of Auckland Limited".

If Auckland Council's governing body vote to proceed with the Queens Wharf Mooring Dolphin proposal in their monthly meeting tomorrow a resource consent application for the project will then be prepared by Panuku Development Auckland.

Panuku are a land management CCO within Auckland Council, and their resource consent proposal would be publicly notified and allow public feedback on the design of the Mooring Dolphin.

The 348-metre Ovation of the Seas, added to the capital's skyline today, following a visit to Milford Sound.
Source: 1 NEWS