Businesses celebrate Sail GP’s Auckland debut but warn Wynard bridge must reopen in time

Waterfront business in Auckland are celebrating the return of the Sail GP regatta next year, but stress a vital link to the district needs to be up and running when it happens.

Sail GP pulled out of hosting duties last November due to unavailable spectator grounds, leaving Christchurch to pick up the slack.

The Garden City was also meant to host next year’s regatta, before Sail GP withdrew from its hosting agreement.

Eleven teams from around the world will converge on Auckland early next year to compete across 14 events for the largest cash prize in the competition’s history.

Meanwhile, businesses in the area were preparing for an influx in customers, something they said would be a huge boost to the district.

Owner of Italian restaurant Baduzzi in Wynyard Quarter, Michael Dearth, said the regatta’s return was great news.

“That is just fantastic news, you’ve made my day, I’m really stoked to hear this.”

He said businesses would be looking forward to welcoming customers after a rocky few years.

“I don’t have to go blow by blow on how we’ve been hit with a lot of bad news, and a lot of struggles, and a lot of stuff over these last couple years,” Dearth said.

“The whole Wynyard Quarter has been banged around and I know there’s a lot of businesses down there that would appreciate some vibrant activity.”

There was, however, a snag, the Wynyard Crossing Bridge which had been out of commission since March.

Without the bridge, a five minute walk to Wynyard Quarter turned into about a 15 minute detour.

Passenger ferries were taking people back and forth in the interim and a floating pontoon was approved last month while the bridge underwent repairs.

Dearth said now was the time to invest in infrastructure like the Wynyard Crossing.

“It’s important now more than ever that we just complete a lot of these construction projects,” he said.

“We’ve had a lot of set-backs over the years, but we are a vibrant, beautiful, growing city, and that rivals a lot of places in the world, and I think we need to up a lot of our infrastructure.”

The Wynyard Crossing Bridge is stuck in an upward position making it unusable.

Just up from the bridge, general manager of the Park Hyatt Hotel, Brett Sweetman, said the crossing would be essential when the races take place.

“We could not have a world class event in Auckland and have a broken bridge,” he said.

“We’re showcasing Auckland to the world, so it’s important that we show how good Auckland is and how easy it is to get around.”

Sweetman said guests had already booked for the event.

“Even overnight we’ve received three inquiries for groups coming to stay, so it’s just good for New Zealand, it’s a good time of the year, good to get people into Auckland…”

“Everyone benefits from events like this.”

Without the bridge, a five minute walk to Wynyard Quarter turned into about a 15 minute detour.

Heart of City chief executive Viv Beck said the bridge was a crucial piece of infrastructure.

“That crossing is vital,” she said.

“We have been really concerned about the fact that it’s not been operating, we joined up with others to seek more urgent action, and we have supported the pontoon…”

“Having that bridge permanently operating is vital.”

Beck was thrilled the city would be able to host its Sail GP debut.

“It’s an exciting event, we were obviously very disappointed it didn’t work out this year, but delighted to have it coming next year,” she said.

Tātaki Auckland Unlimited chief executive Nick Hill said the way had been cleared for a spectator space at Wynyard Point, something that had stopped Auckland hosting when it was unavailable last year.

“We’re a year on through the process of dealing with the removal of the tank farm, and the rights, and the issues around remediation, meaning that Auckland is able to provide them with the footprint they require to put up their grandstand,” Hill said.

This year, the first day of racing was cancelled after a Hector’s dolphin was spotted on the course off Lyttelton.

[ Sail GP withdrew for its agreement to host next years event in Christchurch, with its chief executive Sir Russell Coutts afterwards complaining about the event costs, and signalling it was likely to never return.

Auckland Council’s development arm, Eke Panuku, expects the Wynyard Crossing Bridge to be ready for next summer, but said if the works could be completed earlier, they would be.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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