Xmas road closures as 200,000 America's Cup spectators hit Auckland

Author
Tom Dillane, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 22 Nov 2020, 9:46AM
The weekend is being treated as a trial run for the 200,000 spectators in the city projected by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED).
The weekend is being treated as a trial run for the 200,000 spectators in the city projected by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED).

Xmas road closures as 200,000 America's Cup spectators hit Auckland

Author
Tom Dillane, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 22 Nov 2020, 9:46AM

Shoppers on the hectic final weekend before Christmas will have to navigate a series of major road closures in downtown Auckland to clear the way for a projected 200,000 America's Cup spectators.

And while some business owners are looking forward to an influx of foot traffic, others say the closures will lead to delivery disruptions, and the Automobile Association is warning of "a lot of disruption".

The closures may put further pressure on small businesses who are already closing because of what they say are the impacts of "tone deaf" road works from Auckland Transport compounding Covid-19 revenue drops.

The Herald on Sunday has obtained the traffic management plan for the five days around the America's Cup Christmas regatta held from December 15 to 20, revealing major road closures.

The Viaduct Harbour filled with fans during the America 's Cup in 2003. Photo / Martin Sykes

The Viaduct Harbour filled with fans during the America 's Cup in 2003. Photo / Martin Sykes

The weekend is being treated as a trial run for 200,000 spectators in the city projected by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed).

The closures span a series of streets around Britomart and the Viaduct including Quay St, some of Customs St West, Lower Albert, Lower Hobson, Market Place, Viaduct Harbour Ave, and most of Wynyard Quarter.

All private vehicles will be banned from 1pm to 8pm.

A business stakeholder in Auckland's Viaduct told the Herald Ateed was using the weekend as a test to gauge how the network copes with huge crowd numbers that will match that of the America's Cup final in March 2021.

Headquarters bar and restaurant is set right in the middle of the road closures in the Viaduct Marina, and owner Leo Molloy said he is expecting massive patron numbers that pre-Christmas weekend.

"It's a sobering thought but I guess we've become accustomed to having every street effectively closed with cones, so it comes as no surprise," Molloy said.

"Customs St, what will be the impact on us? I don't know. We're largely pedestrian anyway because there's very little parking in our area, so I doubt it will affect us much.

"I personally think the regatta is going to be huge, only because the $26 billion domestic market for tourism they surely must be exhausted with Queenstown by now for trips.

"We're actually already hitting peak summer numbers. But it is regrettable for the small businesses that need traffic moving past their front window."

Auckland's Quay St, which is having a major overhaul that is causing headaches for vehicles and pedestrians. Photo / Dean Purcell

Auckland's Quay St, which is having a major overhaul that is causing headaches for vehicles and pedestrians. Photo / Dean Purcell

Ateed spokesman Chris Gregory said the plans in place were "part of a city-wide response to managing the anticipated numbers expected at key times" during the entire 36th America's Cup event.

"Safety is at the heart of everything we do. By restricting parking and closing off roads in the area, we are making sure that spectators can watch the race day activities and not have to watch out for traffic," Gregory said.

"The measures we are putting in place are designed to keep everyone safe and tie-in with the event's resource consent. It's a win-win for us all."

Last week, the Barber Shop Company closed three of its stores in Karangahape Rd, Federal St and Wolfe St, blaming Mayor Phil Goff.

It has put up signs outside directing people to their other shops that are still open, and directing complaints to a phone number for Goff's personal assistant.

"We can't control Covid," Barber Shop Co chief executive Adam Johanson said.

"We can control the environment and how many roads we dig up at once. I believe AT has dug them all up at once."

Automobile Association adviser Barney Irvine said it would undoubtedly be a traffic logjam at Christmas weekend, and the key thing was for Auckland Council to provide sufficient warning to motorists ahead of time.

"It'll be great to see people flocking to the CBD, but widespread road closures over that period would be sure to cause a lot of disruption," Irvine said.

"Traffic in the central city will be under a lot of strain as it is – CBD workers will be rushing around trying to wrap things up for the year, service and delivery vehicles will be flat out, and lots of the people coming into town for the regatta and for Christmas shopping will be using their cars to get there."

Auckland's Wynyard Quarter area is already starting to buzz ahead of the America's Cup Christmas Regatta, businesses say. Photo / NZ Herald

Auckland's Wynyard Quarter area is already starting to buzz ahead of the America's Cup Christmas Regatta, businesses say. Photo / NZ Herald

The road closures from December 15 to 20 will not include Ubers, taxis and delivery vehicles, but some business stakeholders briefed on Ateed's closure plans said they expected complications getting delivery vehicle exemptions.

The Auckland CBD has already been dubbed "the city of cones" because of a raft of road works, most linked to the City Rail Link build.

Current routes affected by the various works include Albert St, Karangahape Rd, Tyler St and around the intersection of Customs and Queen streets.

"If you need an emergency keg of Heineken on one of the busiest days of the year, how's that going to work with streets closed?" one business owner told the Herald on Sunday.

However, business owners the Herald on Sunday spoke to were largely pleased with the prospect of so much foot traffic in the CBD after a dire year for business.

Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said they were looking at the Christmas regatta weekend as a "big opportunity" for businesses after an extremely challenging year.

"Closures do happen for major events and from our perspective the main thing is they're well communicated with businesses and essential things, like deliveries, can still happen," Beck said.

"For us it's a big opportunity to get people into the city. Not all of the cones will be gone but a lot of them are coming away progressively over the next period and I think people are going to love seeing changes, what's been going on behind the cones. The excitement is starting to build now."