With just over five months to go until New Zealand welcomes visitors for Rugby World Cup 2011, it’s ‘game on’ for the construction industry especially along the changing face of Auckland city’s waterfront.
Currently in full swing, major redevelopment will enhance Auckland’s seaside aspect and transform it into stylish destination with open public spaces, commercial and business centres - where people can dine, shop, relax, work and play - all within easy access by land or water.
Auckland’s city and regional councils and the Ports of Auckland have a vision that takes the west to east waterfront development through to 2040, but projects due for completion for RWC 2011 are already adding new dynamic to the city.
‘The Cloud’ - Auckland’s much talked-about "party central" - is emerging on Queen's Wharf with white bone-like steel supports indicating the extent of the semi-permanent structure that will be a focal point for RWC entertainment.
The NZ$9.8 million, 178.5m long white cloud is a multi-purpose venue that will be capable of housing up to 6000 people for special events.
The Cloud will be split into four segments allowing a number of events to be held at the same time. It will host displays, act as a VIP function centre and concert venue, and a visitor site.
A media lounge on the mezzanine floor will provide a between match base for international media, and the harbour will offer a dramatic location backdrop for televised reports.
Party central will also provide a place for fans to relax and watch Rugby World Cup games on big screens, and Prime Minister John Key promises international visitors that they’ll be wowed by the spectacular views from the venue.
"Queens Wharf will be at the heart of the celebrations next year. The facilities on the wharf will not only enable the public to enjoy the games in a unique atmosphere, but offer live events and a great venue to showcase the best of New Zealand," says Key.
Across the road, the heritage Britomart precinct is shaping up to be Auckland’s next hip destination with new eating houses and bars opening each week, and upmarket retail and office space nearing completion.
There are 18 heritage buildings around Britomart Square, the biggest collection in one precinct in New Zealand, and redevelopment includes sympathetic restoration of what was once the heart of Auckland’s first mercantile centre.
Former warehouses, trading centres, police and customs buildings are being transformed into stylish restaurants, bars, cafés, pubs and clubs - turning Britomart into a thriving day / night destination.
The area is being revitalised by Cooper and Company, founded by a Kiwi investor, and nine of the company’s 18 heritage buildings have now been refurbished.
The most recent eating house to open in Britomart is Ebisu - a contemporary Japanese restaurant, sake bar and café - in the former Union Fish company building, which dates back to 1906 and once housed marine workshops.
A New York-style Precinct café, specialising in paper bag lunches, is in the same building, and Tyler Street Garage bar and bistro has opened next door.
The austere old parking building has been cleverly transformed into a funky, industrial-style contemporary space with original signage still in place.
A roof terrace bar has been developed to make the most of panoramic views of the waterfront, and with long, late opening hours Tyler Street Garage says it promises "big, fun, noisy nights out".
Britomart Country Club
An indoor-outdoor bar made out of shipping containers, and known as the Britomart Country Club, is also proving a popular gathering place in the precinct.
Another architectural point of interest are two refurbished 19th century warehouses - Stanbeth House and Excelsior House.
Linked at the ground level, the beautifully restored buildings have boutique office space upstairs and upmarket ground floor bars and eating places which include 1885 Britomart bar, the Vietnamese restaurant Café Hanoi and a new outlet of Shaky Isles Coffee company.
The Britomart waterfront precinct covers 6.5 hectares and is adjacent to Britomart Transport Centre, Auckland’s main transport hub. Redeveloped open spaces outside the centre will draw pedestrians into the precinct through one of seven new eco-friendly buildings planned for the area.
Three new buildings with office and retail space are already complete bringing thousands of workers into the rapidly developing area.
Known as the East Complex, two of the buildings front onto Takutai Square and feature a shopping and food gallery atrium that links contemporary architecture with Britomart's historic buildings and character-full lanes.
A multi-storey car park on the former Oriental Market site has just opened. This will support the new commercial centre, provide extra space for Vector events arena to the east, and a car valet service.
Cooper and Company says by 2015, apartments, hotels and close to 200 businesses will be based in Britomart creating a buzzing 24/7 urban community.
Further along Auckland’s waterfront, redevelopment of the Wynyard Quarter is transforming a former industrial wasteland into a vibrant new suburb that will also become an entertainment hub.
Work is progressing rapidly on stage one of a multi-million dollar revitalisation of the entire city water frontage - an 8km stretch from the Auckland Harbour Bridge to Mechanics Bay.
In time for RWC 2011, North Wharf, Jellicoe Street, Wynyard Crossing, Gateway Plaza, the Viaduct Events Centre and Silo Park will be transformed into a central city hub - easily accessible and completely linked. People will be able to walk or cycle along the entire waterfront or gather for events, activities and entertainment.
Waterfront Auckland chief executive, John Dalzell, says the completion of the waterfront will bring "a new dynamic'' to the city.
The North Wharf is expected to be open to the public in a few months time, with about 10 eateries housed in old cargo sheds.
The centrepiece is the Old Red Shed, previously an old Auckland Harbour Board building dating back to the 1930s, which has been restored and its character retained.
The new Viaduct Events Centre - on the seaward side of North Wharf on the edge of the Viaduct Harbour - is now in its final construction phase.
The 6000m2 multi-purpose building has exhibition, meeting and hospitality facilities all with spectacular views of Waitemata Harbour.
On the other side of the North Wharf, Jellicoe Street completes the axis that will enable people to walk or cycle the length of Auckland's waterfront.
The area will be central to events, activities and entertainment during RWC 2011, and will include night markets and a cinema.
Wynyard Quarter will be easily accessed from the central city via Wynyard Crossing, an open pedestrian and cycling bridge over Viaduct Harbour.
The former Emirates Team New Zealand base has been removed to create Gateway Plaza, a large public area with seating and steps down to the water’s edge which will become the landing point for Wynyard Crossing and Wynyard Quarter.
Continuing down Jellicoe Street to the other side of Wynyard Quarter will be Silo Park, which is to include a playground, an expanse of green open space, a viewing structure and two character cement silos that have been retained.
Heritage trams will also stage a comeback in Auckland for RWC 2011 - the first time the once popular transport has been seen in the city for 50 years.
Tracks are currently being laid in a 1.5km loop from Jellicoe Street, Halsey and Gaunt streets, and along Daldy Street.
Outside Wynyard Quarter, other areas of the waterfront are also being upgraded. Work is underway to convert pier car parks for use by campervans and extensive installation of CCTV cameras will improve public security.
Waterfront Auckland says the promise is to have Wynyard Quarter, Gateway Plaza and the surrounding area finished and ready to celebrate RWC 2011 but their job will not be done until 2040 when the waterfront revitalisation project ends.
Auckland is the largest city of the country. Sky-scrapers and noisy streets of downtown, peace and quiet of one-storey residential districts; fine beaches, scenic bays, great shopping
Rotorua - famous thermal resort in New Zealand, cultural centre of Maori aborigines; Valley of Geysers; mineral baths; shear show.
Matamata - tiny town, that became world famous as Hobbiton - hobbits habitat (in Lord of the Rings film trilogy); green meadows, fields, dense forests.