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  • Writer's pictureGrant McLachlan - New Zealand Herald - Column

For and against: Waterfront stadium

A waterfront stadium could synergise Central Auckland, creating an entertainment hub that would complement neighbouring arenas, theatres, museums, conference venues, accommodation and tourism districts. If integrated with infrastructure, it could solve a backlog of problems.

The favoured location for the stadium is Bledisloe Wharf - the same wharf Ports of Auckland wish to extend. Across the road from Britomart, it is at a major choke point for ferries, ships, trains, buses, trucks, pedestrians and other road users.

Any reduction in the area of the port puts pressure elsewhere. Ports of Auckland would expect to extend the eastern Fergusson Wharf. Otherwise, it would need to look elsewhere, such as Marsden Point, putting pressure on connecting road and rail networks there.

To build a stadium on Bledisloe Wharf and extend Fergusson Wharf needs a reclamation of the harbour. The spoil from the City Rail Link and the second harbour crossing could provide the answer.

The City Rail Link might increase the capacity of trains and pedestrian volumes to the central city but the issue remains that east of the central business district the capacity of the road network is restricted by the lack of integrated motorways.

Eastern residents seem to prefer to sit in their million-dollar homes while outside their gate is bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Tamaki Drive was at breaking point in the 1980s while Grafton Gully terminates at a short-sighted labyrinth of apartment complexes built on surplus railyards. Still, locals prefer to block any notion of completing the eastern motorway loop - increasing their property prices at everyone else's expense.

Here lies the problem. The proposed stadium represents a "build and they will come" future-proofing mindset whereas the locals would prefer a "starve 'em and they will pay more" catch-up mindset.

Compare Melbourne with Wellington, for instance. Melbourne has several large-capacity stadiums that charge reasonable, family oriented prices. Wellington chose to build a stadium almost half the size as other options considered so they could charge higher prices to suit corporates. Alas, Melbourne's stadium occupancy is higher than Wellington's.

Those living closer to the proposed Auckland waterfront stadium site are more likely to argue for a smaller stadium and are more likely able to afford the higher ticket prices. Similarly, those farther away might be deterred from attending events due to the hassle of traffic congestion and higher ticket prices.

Countering such logic, if those east of the Southern Motorway oppose motorways through their suburbs, then there should be tolls charged at onramps between Silvia Park and Fanshawe St for the privilege of travelling past other suburbs that have allowed motorways.

Transport networks should be interconnected. In the 1950s, Auckland's road and rail network envisioned a series of interlinking loops. The logic was simple: if one route was congested, traffic would have an alternative route. Instead, Auckland only completed a single artery of motorways with capillaries of arterial and local roads, which often clot.

In the past decade, however, the thinking has returned to the loop philosophy with the Western Motorway's Waterview connection, the SH1/SH20 connections at Manukau and Mangere Inlet, the upper harbour highway - Northern Motorway junction upgrade at Albany, and the City Rail Link.

Coincidentally, the area that needs to be reclaimed for the stadium and port expansion was also considered for the junction of the eastern motorway crossing Orakei Basin and a tunnel portal for the second harbour crossing from Grafton Gully to Barrys Point.

The more recently proposed second harbour crossing is a tunnel essentially parallel to the harbour bridge from Victoria Park under Wynyard Wharf and re-joining the Northern Motorway close to the Onewa Rd junction. These three tunnel proposals offer few alternative routes if there is congestion north of spaghetti junction.

One bad development can trigger a chain reaction of infrastructure nightmares. Conversely, one stadium can solve a lot of problems by working with and benefiting from other infrastructure projects.

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