Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tanking the Tank Farm before building even begins ...

It would be amusing to watch all the political wrangling over Auckland's Tank farm precinct if only the future of one of the most important pieces of Auckland's future wasn't at stake.

As the Herald says, "just average" is just "not good enough for the waterfront," but with some exceptions "just average" is all we can expect from what's become a highly politicised wrangle.

point_park_plan_lgThe present hearing, which that Herald article presaged, was ostensively designed to "plan" the future of what's now being called Wynyard Quarter -- "the former bulk oil storage facility and industrial properties will house bars, restaurants, office blocks and apartments, while a 4 hectare harbour-edge park will form part of the development," insist the politicians -- but as we know politicians couldn't organise a piss in a paper bag. 

Radio NZ's Todd Nyall summarises the problems so far [audio here], which include the inability of the competing political bodies to agree, the inability of politicians and planners to understand that current owners and tenants of long-standing such as most of the fishing and marine industry might have some rights too -- and that there are good economic reasons why they're there -- and the largely arbitrary placement and decisions regarding apartments and office space and 'boulevards', which have largely ignored the existing owners and tenants, and in the case of one boulevard, runs right over one corner of Sanfords' fish processing plant.

PICT0013 Just think for a moment about that quote two paragraphs above about what "will" go there -- there at the will of time-servers and power-lusters, not because they necessarily make any sense.  These are people who only know what's been done before, not what's possible to the imagination in this world class location!  That is, I suggest, the biggest (and unspoken) problem.

08bridge435bFrankly, these are people with all the imagination of, well, politicians and planners.  They neither know enough to know what should go there and nor do they have the imagination to wonder about what might go there, in other words what makes both economic and architectural sense in this once-in-a generation opportunity for Auckland to get it right and transform itself, and nor do they have the right to go trampling over existing ownership rights. 

Tannhauser_Tower_Sketch_NW I suggest there are two simple ways to depoliticise the whole process before it turns into the Sovietised centrally planned suburban embarrassment it is likely to become, instead of the urban waterside jewel in Auckland's crown that it should be.  Instead of braindead political wrangling over what will form part of the development, here's what the two competing councils could do:

  1. Tannhauser_Tower_Sketch Announce that the whole precinct is to become an officially mandated Enterprise Zone in which all zoning, planning and other restrictions on imagination are removed -- hell, why not go the whole hog and make it a Free Tax and Free Trade zone and really let enterprise rip -- leaving property owners and entrepreneurs free to give vent to their own imaginations, instead of being held down to the imagination of those who couldn't get a job outside the council, and protected in their property rights by a simple codification of common law rights that could be introduced as voluntary covenants.  Can you just imagine the wonders we would see?
  2. Announce that the property interests that both councils hold in the area will be sold to lower the council rates bill (which is going up for another year, in case you haven't heard), but not before announcing that one special part of the area will be subject to a competition for an iconic building -- something of the stature of Sydney's Opera House -- something that is backed by a private development team -- something that will proudly hold its place, and recognise the special place that is the Waitemata waterfront.  Who knows what delights we might see emerge, and what opportunities?

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