Quake-hit CentrePort’s should be repurposed as a transport and entertainment hub, a Wellington developer says.
Ian Cassels has called for the port, which suffered substantial damage after the 7.8-magnitude Kaikoura earthquake on November 14, to become like Oriental Bay with bars and transport interchanges.
His suggestion comes as the future of Wellington’s quake-hit CentrePort will be up for debate when regional councillors meet on Wednesday morning.
At the meeting Greater Wellington regional councillors will get the opportunity to pass comments onto the CentrePort’s management to inform their plans for the coming financial year.
While returning to business as usual would be part of council plans, Greater Wellington Regional Council chairman Chris Laidlaw said the objective was to begin developing a plan beyond that.
“This is essentially about looking further ahead to enabling land owned by the Port to be factored into the decisions we are making, particularly around transport,” he said.
This would be factored into Lets Get Welly Moving initiative, which was set up to help solve the city’s congestion problems.
Cassels described the quake as a hidden blessing, allowing Wellingtonians to re-think how the city and the port were best aligned.
“I’m standing in my building looking at the containers on the eastern edge of our port, and nothing could be more inappropriate for the other half of our inner harbour,” he said.
“It should have magnificent stuff going on. It should look a bit like Oriental Bay. There should be entertainment and bars and water taxis should scoot across there late at night to other parts of the Harbour.”
Cassels suggested small-scale wharfs should also be installed for smaller craft and larger suburban buses should stop at CentrePort and not traverse the inner city.
“If you don’t want to walk there should be other options, but they should be electric mini buses or something. The last thing we want is diesel buses.”
The Port has been eyeing up land around Kaiwharawhara, which would be a natural move, with a similar sized operation more easily maintained off reclaimed land, he said.
But New Zealand Shipping Federation executive director Annabel Young disagreed that CentrePort’s days as a freight destination were numbered.
“If you got the cranes up and running and the wharfs up and running again it’s a case of the ships will go where the cargo is.”
But she would like to see would be a unified terminal for ferries, rather than separate operations for the the Bluebridge and Interislander.
“At the moment we don’t give them a great tourism experience at either terminal.”
Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley said there were ongoing issues around entry and exit to the Ports, and he commended the council for beginning to come to terms with that.
“We have got the Roads of National Significance virtually from Levin to Wellington Ports but it’s that last bit of interfacing with the Port that’s so important,” he said.
Wellington City Mayor Justin Lester said efforts should focus on getting CentrePort operating as it was before the quakes.
“They are a good business. The only reason we are considering this is because of the earthquake and its response. I would like to see them operate as they were in the past.”