The Hootenanny State


“Today we learn that we are lurching towards the other end of the spectrum – an entirely temporary tent structure…It had always been our hope that the legacy of the Rugby World Cup was going to be an interim step that would activate our waterfront… ” Alex Swney  NZ Herald 20 April 2010 

Since PM John Key announced in June last year that Queens Wharf on the waterfront in downtown Auckland had “been secured” for a “number of initiatives” for the six weeks of the Rugby World Cup in 2011 there has been more talk about Party Central than in Communist-era USSR and about as much secrecy.

 “I see Queens Wharf as the cornerstone of this Rugby World Cup phase of the waterfront development,” said Key. It would be, he said, a magnet for fans and a venue for an opening ceremony. But the one party attraction is starting to wear a bit thinnish as options for the wharf  get whittled down.

The many bars and restaurants and fair amount of informal open space in the Viaduct Basin may have seemed the obvious place to accommodate the target 10,000 to 15,000 people   drawn from those who can’t make it in to the newly refurbished Eden Park 6 kilometres away-plus some post-match trekkers who do, although not for them the  quick stroll to the downtown bars from the Wellington and Christchurch rugby venues.

But here was a  once in a century opportunity to reclaim the waterfront at the heart of the city. The only trouble is  it’s not easy, pre-super city, getting agreement in Auckland despite the involvement from a Government which, in the ordinary course of things, might have been expected to be a little more laissez faire when it comes to social activities accompanying large sporting events, if rugby in New Zealand can still be regarded as a sport.

Perhaps the Government should make a preemptive strike  and send in the commissioners now.

Under the previous government the 2006 Trevor Mallard-sponsored $500 million proposal, which included a waterfront  venue East of Eden for the rugby games as well as the parties,  quickly became a dead duck before it turned into a white elephant.

Subsequent proposals included a luxury cruise ship terminus. An open competition last year attracted 262 designs, whittled to eight finalists but Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully together with Auckland’s lame ducks, mayor John Banks and Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee, last year rejected them all for lacking the necessary “wow factor.”  Mr Banks also said he needed to guard Auckland’s heritage, which no doubt also includes himself.

A new closed contest, with a decision pending, is now down to only four options:

  1. Remove existing sheds and create a temporary village to host Rugby World Cup 2011 related celebrations.
  2. Undertake minimal refurbishment of the sheds to provide usable covered spaces for Rugby World Cup 2011 related celebrations.
  3. Significant refurbishment of sheds with a focus on retaining one or both of the sheds for Rugby World Cup 2011 related celebrations and the medium term.
  4. Develop Queens Wharf to provide a cruise ship terminal and public open space, usable for Rugby World Cup 2011 related celebrations and events in the future.*

The matter may even be decided before the actual event. As the Hootenanny State seamlessly supercedes the Nanny State, the Government and the Auckland Regional Council, who bought the wharf last year, are now moving party-wise with one intent-literally- a canvas erection about 25m by 100m and 12m tall at the highest point.  If things get really tight the Christchurch City Council could  lend them their winter tent. It hasn’t been used much recently and is ideal for local body politicians skating on thin ice.

Meanwhile Queens Wharf is still padlocked but watch that space.  The ports company used to use it for parking imported used Japanese cars and stacking boxes of ripening bananas. Perhaps they could revive an old custom and dish out lemons at half time during the RWC.

A parting question: by the time the Rugby World Cup is staged, which former Auckland local body politician and loser in the Super City Mayoralty stakes will join Marlon Brando’s character in On the Waterfront and declaim  “I could have been somebody…”?*

 Queens Wharf could have been something too.

 #Lyall Lukey  20 April 2010

Images released for Queen’s Wharf |   (Björn–pre-ABBA):Hootenanny Singers – 1965

The Hootenanny Singers – Kullerullvisan [1972]

Florence & Machine Dog Days Jools Holland Hootenanny 2009

Head Like A Hole – “Hootenanny” [Auckland, 11th Mar 2010]

Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront “I Coulda Been Somebody”

On The Waterfront with hot chicks!  A rather different take.


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