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Queens Wharf to be RWC 'party central'

Published: 12:56PM Thursday June 11, 2009 Source: ONE News

Auckland's Queens Wharf will be used as 'party central' during the Rugby World Cup and could end up with a new cruise ship passenger terminal.

"Party central - it'll be a place to congregate. There'll be large TV screens and bars and places for people to come along and celebrate and you can imagine it won't just be the six weeks of the campaign," says Prime Minister John Key.

Key says the government will loan the wharf from Ports of Auckland for the duration of the 2011 World Cup and is negotiating to buy the wharf.

In the event that Queens Wharf is purchased, plans such as the development of an international cruise ship terminal with bars and cafes and plenty of public spaces would occur, Key said.

"An opportunity to use the Rugby World Cup to leverage into a redevelopment of the waterfront - now that's the vision for Downtown Auckland," he says.

Speaking at the TRENZ tourism event in Auckland, Key spoke of his vision for Queens Wharf being the epicentre of the World Cup.

He urged Auckland leaders to unite in the interests of making it an event that will "create legacy infrastructure" for the region and the country.

"The reform of Auckland governance presents a real opportunity to put in place a programme to transform the waterfront.

"It is my view that there is an opportunity to turn Queens Wharf into an important public space."

However, there appears to be a hold-up.

"I would be frustrated if the leaders of Auckland couldn't arrange that. I think the government's put its best foot or feet forward," says Key.

One of those leaders, Auckland Regional Council Chair Mike Lee, says this is why the region needs a super city. Lee blames Auckland's mayor, John Banks, for the hold up.

Banks puts the cost of strengthening the wharf, in order for it to work like Auckland's Viaduct precinct, at $25 million. On top of that the cost of the terminal is $100 million.

"The city hasn't been helpful at this stage, but we're going to be a new organisation shortly so I'm sure we can work together," says Lee.

Key points out that as a bare minimum the government has secured Queens Wharf for a number of initiatives for the World Cup.

"At the very least this will see Queens Wharf loaned from the Ports of Auckland for the period of the Cup.

"Urgent negotiations are continuing to purchase the wharf so that it can be a legacy asset with a view to long-term development. I have told my ministers to put serious work into making this happen."

Key described a Rugby World Cup 'Live Site' - a large open air space capable of hosting between 10,000 and 15,000 people, which will be the focus for a mass public opening ceremony and act as a magnet for fans during the six-week tournament - the tournament's 'party central'.

"The Rugby World Cup will be a party on a scale never seen in this country before - but it will require Auckland to come to the party first," he said.

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