America’s Cup: Big decisions due today

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff at the parade welcoming Team NZ home. - Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Big decisions are due today on how to accommodate the America's Cup on the Auckland waterfront, but without clear information on the economic merits of each option.

Councillors will have to weigh up a recommendation to favour the cheapest cup village at $120 million, against a report which shows that may not deliver the best economic benefits.

Today's meeting is expected to pick the favourite, along with two back up options, to be finalised in talks with the government and the cup defender Team New Zealand within a month.

But the pressure-cooker decision-making is not easy, with the construction costs for each option much clearer than their ability to deliver a financial-spinoff.

Councillors were still receiving details late yesterday with crucial figures missing from the reports.

For example, the option most highly-rated by officials was the most expensive and most contentious - the $159m extension of Halsey Wharf.

Acknowledging the political and legal risks in pushing ahead with that one, officials are favouring the $120m compromise plan, to spread team bases across smaller extensions of the Wynyard, Halsey Street and Hobson Wharves.

But the compromise plan accommodates fewer superyacht berths, and the superyacht visits are one of the most lucrative economic contributors from the cup.

The difference in economic spend between the lowest number of superyacht visits, and the highest - if more facilities are built, is $175m.

The challenge for councillors is to work out how many extra superyacht dollars come with the $39m price difference between the favoured, cheaper option, and the riskier, most expensive one.

There are other unknowns in the equation.

Planning committee chair Chris Darby said he wanted to know the value of leaving a greater expanse of harbour unmolested by not building the most intrusive Halsey Street Wharf extension option.

So far all the options presented accommodate only seven challengers plus Team New Zealand, yet there's a $62m economic benefit range between having five challengers, and having 11 - which none of the options cater for.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff publicly stated his preference for the $120m cheapest option, before the economic benefit study was released.

The clock is ticking for all of this to be digested and acted on.

A village concept needs to be decided before Christmas for the planning approval process to be set in motion to allow construction to begin late next year.


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