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Wynyard Quarter: The Cinderella project

If cityscapes were fairy tales, the Wynyard Quarter’s is a classic ‘rags to riches’ yarn.

From a notorious brownfield site blighted by land contamination, to a multi-use community hub renowned for its green credentials, Panuku Development Auckland’s waterfront development, Wynyard Quarter, is possibly one of the most ambitious urban transformation projects undertaken in New Zealand to date.

Strolling through Wynyard Quarter today, it is difficult to visualise the location’s gritty history. It traces back to a 1930’s reclamation project that crumbled into the sea, only to be clawed back, rebuilt and fortified to play host to the petro-chemical, bulk liquid, fish and marine industries that claimed their stake there.

It does not evoke picturesque imagery. Dockside landscapes rarely do.

At the time, it was virtually impossible to conceive of Wynyard Quarter – then known as ‘the Tank Farm’ – cradling young families and hi-tech enterprises, bustling with street markets and outdoor events. Yet today, this is a reality.

Wynyard Quarter’s silos, reminiscent of London’s famed Battersea Power Station chimneys, now rank among Auckland’s iconic urban art forms. Its streets bustle with commerce, pedestrians and children on scooters. Its concept provides a beacon of futurism, sustainable living, progress and community.

From vision to reality

In 2004, Ports of Auckland appointed a multi-disciplinary taskforce to transform the heavily contaminated brownfield site into a mixed-use, vibrant development that balanced the needs of the waterfront marine and fishing industries. It took a dedicated team to deliver on such a lofty vision.

As a consultant on the project, Bentley & Co provided strategic planning advice to Ports of Auckland, assisting them by working with the Auckland Council to develop planning controls that enabled the transition of the area from an industrial to mixed-use environment. The consultancy provided policy advice as well as supporting the plan’s progression throughout the appeal period.

“There was a lot of work required to ensure the provisions worked for the key stakeholders, who spanned the fishing, marine and petro-chemicals sectors, as well as the other one-third landholdings owner”, explains Mark Arbuthnot, Principal Planner at Bentley & Co. “It was important to not only focus on land re-zoning, but to also consider how [the plan] worked with the marine and fishing industry environments.”

Among a host of consultants engaged on the project, such as B&A, Beca, Kiwi Vision and more, Bentley & Co obtained around seventy individual consents to activate the Quarter, including the consents required for the Jellicoe Street and northern Daldy Street upgrades and related infrastructure. “We worked with architects and landscape designers to develop an attractive public realm, and with the rest of the team to manage the storm water infrastructure and contaminated site discharges. We also obtained the consents for the North Wharf restaurants; the playground; the street markets; the “Six Pack” event space; the tram line; and the temporary car parks. And all in time for the Rugby World Cup”, notes Mark.

Stakeholder engagement has been pivotal to the project’s success. “Consultation is key. By not engaging the right people in the process you can come unstuck. Whether they be leaseholders, landholders or council members, you need to be sure you are speaking to the right people”, he advises.

Having a good team on board was also part of the winning formula. “We engaged the best people and had the best possible design we could achieve, which helped in obtaining the consents and gaining the support of all the stakeholders. Buy-in, and commitment from all parties to the process guaranteed a successful outcome,” explains Bentley & Co Director, Craig McGarr.

Successful completion of the North Wharf in time for the Rugby World Cup was a precursor to the remainder of the project falling into place. “The North Wharf development was the keystone to getting people over the line and on board with the project,” he adds.

Measuring success

In order to deliver on the vision, the consultants needed to be cognisant of provisions for land-use that facilitated commercial and residential development, while at the same time complimenting open, public spaces.

A key performance indicator for the team has been the number of families actually using the open public spaces. “I am really pleased with the success Panuku has had in attracting families to Wynyard Quarter”, says Craig. “Seeing families down there is a huge indicator of success – it’s not just bars and restaurants – it is real family community, both during daylight hours and after dark.”

The next phase involves integrating the residential community into the Wynyard Quarter, while retaining the presence of the marine and fishing industry. “So far we have achieved that balance. The very first activation stage has been to get families down there; next is to get residential properties underway, which entails more parks, more open space. The end product will be a large resident and business population safely co-existing with the traditional fish processing industry in the area”, he says.

At the close of 2015 the project achieved a major milestone by securing consents for the Park Hyatt Hotel, a process that Bentley & Co was heavily involved with. “That will really kick off the area,” enthuses Craig. “If you make it attractive, the people will come!”

Don’t miss your opportunity to gain insight into this unique project. Join RMLA Auckland and Panuku Development Director, Rod Marler, for the Wynyard Quarter Walking Tour on February 25.

To register for this event, please click here or go to: http://www.rmla.org.nz/events/view/id/319

The Wynyard Quarter Walking Tour is proudly sponsored by Bentley & Co and Jack Tar Bar.