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New Zealand face logistical nightmare

Bermuda’s America’s Cup Village was a roaring success (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Winning the America’s Cup appears to have been more straightforward for New Zealand than developing the infrastructure to host the next event in Auckland in 2021.

The Kiwis have stumbled upon various logistical challenges in developing the main hub for the next instalment of the ‘Auld Mug’, which Bermuda overcame in its successful hosting of sailing’s holy grail this summer.

According to a report in Sail-World, an inspection of four of the options shows that none are ideal, with the Auckland Council unwilling to splash $150 million on what it perceives to be a White Elephant should there be no legacy use in place after the 36th America’s Cup.

Three of the four options involve either wharf extension or reclamation — none of which are palatable options for the Auckland Council, and without the assistance of an America’s Cup Empowering Act would surely be held up by prolonged planning action and litigation by groups opposed to further encroachment in the harbour.

The best option, an extension to Halsey Street, was almost taken off the list of options to be passed to the Council CEO for further analysis and report back during a Council meeting last month. While several of the Council were opposed, they voted in favour only to see an unrestricted slate of options considered.

The Westhaven marina site is suitable for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, under whose banner Emirates Team New Zealand race, but has difficult and narrow street access and requires the development of a new road based on the current breakwater to reach the end of the new reclamation.

The 30,000sq metres of hard stand which will accommodate 8-10 teams depending on the required footprint, which was 3,500sq metres per team in Bermuda, has no allowance for an America’s Cup Village which would be required to be based away in the Viaduct area, but with no visibility of the team bases which were vital part of the America’s Cup in Bermuda. The media centre would also need to be allocated in the Viaduct Events Centre or a special temporary facility constructed.

At the 34th America’s Cup in the San Francisco, the bases were remote from the America’s Cup Village with the boats being required to be brought to the America’s Cup for a Dockout ceremony. However it was a poor substitute for being in the same place as happened in Bermuda, and there was no return to the America’s Cup Village after racing which was a big part of the fan experience in Bermuda.

The Wynyard Point area, where various tanks, silos and an oil discharge facility are presently situated, does have the required land for bases at around 85,000sq metres, and could also take an America’s Cup Village if required. The area is reasonably handy to ferries, public and rail transport and the cafés and bar on North Wharf and the Viaduct Harbour.

If the area were used for the America’s Cup Village as well as team bases, then the Bermuda experience would be recaptured.

However, leases are believed to extend into 2025 or later — and the America’s Cup will have been sailed by that time.

The option is to bring forward the lease termination date by two or three years. However there is the vexed issued of contamination rectification, which is believed to be the responsibility of the current lessees, that would be a negotiating point and trade-off if there were early termination of the leases — with unknown cost.

The fourth area is the extension of Captain Cook Wharf.

Like the extension of Halsey Street, the Council claims to be philosophically opposed to further encroachment on the Harbour of wharves and reclamations.

Next step is expected to be the drafting of a Host City Agreement by Emirates Team New Zealand and then negotiating with the Auckland Council.

But who pays the bill is another question, with the debt-strapped Council involved in several high costs infrastructure projects, and knowing that if they invest the $150 million required to secure the Cup then the NZ Government reaps the well documented reward in terms of GST and Tax spend by teams and visitors for no outlay. For its part the previous Government [NZ is currently in an electoral impasse] was unwilling to invest in a facility only to hand it over to be owned by the Auckland Council.

Bermuda’s spend of $77 million pales in comparison with Auckland — that comprised a USD15million event fee, a USD25million underwrite on any sponsorship shortfall and the balance of $35million to create Cross Island within the Royal Naval Dockyard.

Under the Protocol governing the 36th America’s Cup, certainty on the facilities is required by August 2018 or earlier, otherwise, the Cup may relocate to Italy, venue of Challenger of Record Luna Rossa.

It emerged this week that Bermuda is being considered as an option to host a pre-regatta in the lead up to the next America’s Cup.