Blessings of construction sites run counter to the dominant forces in a secular society, and the blessing of reclaimed land even more so, you might think.
But in Maoridom the connections with the past, and with place, are important. And so, at dawn this morning, Ngati Whatua o Orakei cultural leaders performed a task which, for modern Auckland, may have more significance than most would suppose.
There were no earthworks on the Wynyard Central site this morning, but there was that connection to the past & the place. Taiaha Hawke, cultural advisor to the Ngati Whatua Orakei Trust, told the small gathering of project executives & council people: “Though it’s reclaimed, we still need to acknowledge the spirits from before you came here.
“Part of your role this morning is to keep us grounded, if you like. It’s also about your aspirations for the site. We know it’s not all about money. You have a greater purpose than making money – growing of the city, leaving your mark on the city after we’re all gone.”
Willis Bond & Co Ltd will develop part of the land for apartments and some retail & hospitality outlets, Precinct Properties NZ Ltd will develop its Innovation Precinct, and Fu Wah International Group will develop a hotel, all with council leasehold factored into long-term pricing.
John Dalzell, interim chief executive of the new council-owned Panuku Development Auckland said Precinct would start work in a fortnight and the transformation would be well under way by Christmas.
He spoke of partnerships with iwi and with development partners: “Partnerships put us in a place we couldn’t have achieved by ourselves.”
Precinct will develop 48,000m² of space in 5 office buildings, which will provide work for over 3000 people, starting with development inside the former Southern Spars mast-stepping warehouse.
Orakei marae manager Matt Maihi was an oil company truck driver then warehouseman in the 1970s and recounted some of the precinct’s history as he experienced it: “In the mid-70s there were rumours the oil tanks were going to go [from what is now the Wynyard Quarter]. We said no, the oil industry will never go away. They drilled a pipeline from Whangarei to Wiri. We said that will never happen. …. Changes were made to break up the unions and now you have contract drivers. We said that will never happen.
“Tomorrow there’s always a change, and from my point of view it’s been for the benefit of many of us.”
On the council-owned Wynyard Quarter sites, that change will amount to about $1 billion of development about to start. The sites spread across a block bordered by Beaumont, Pakenham St West, Halsey & Madden Sts.
Willis Bond has presold over half the first tranche of its apartments and works are expected to start next month on 113 homes on the site bordered by Daldy & Pakenham St West, and in November on 51 apartments at 132 Halsey St.
Deputy mayor Penny Hulse said the day marked the changing waterfront landscape & a strategic use of publicly owned land assets: “It’s important we take the time to mark the passing of the land from its former industrial use to the location for a new residential & working community as it also recognises the significance of the historical links of the waterfront to mana whenua in Tamaki Makaurau.
“Leveraging the use of these important council landholdings is important as it delivers significant financial returns and optimises the use of this prime waterfront land in a way that will offer long-term economic benefits for the city centre & the region.”
Interim Chief Executive of Panuku Development Auckland John Dalzell says after opening up the western edge of Auckland’s waterfront in 2011, with more public spaces, restaurants and bars, the central precinct of Wynyard Quarter will be an important next step.
“What we’re talking about here is setting an exemplar for medium-density development for the region. Building designs will inspire and new behaviours will be encouraged through approaches to recycling, energy & water conservation & generation, walking & cycling amenities, carparking & transport.
“It won’t just be tenants or homeowners who are set to benefit from the development either as – with 11,000 m² of new laneways & open spaces, including nearly 1300m² of retail space – visitors to the Wynyard Quarter will be able to experience a whole new part of the city.”
Image at top: Taiaha Hawke leads this morning’s blessing.
9 September 2015: Waterfront Park Hyatt gets consent
18 May 2015: Auckland’s waterfront – aiming to be the international exemplar
6 July 2014: Aiming up while others aim low: McGuinness style will lift Wynyard precinct
Attribution: Blessing, Panuku Development release.