14 May 2013

Convention centre design needs council sign-off

8:55 pm on 14 May 2013

The controversial SkyCity Convention Centre, which has been secured in a deal with the Government, still needs to be signed off by the Auckland Council before the project can go ahead.

On Monday, it was announced that SkyCity will pay for and build the $402 million centre in Auckland. In return, the Government will extend its Auckland casino licence until 2048 and allow it to operate 230 more poker machines and gaming tables.

An artist's impression of the convention centre.

An artist's impression of the convention centre. Photo: SUPPLIED

The nine-storey development will take up a block between Nelson, Hobson and Wellesley streets in central Auckland.

It will need resource consent from the council but no application has been drawn up yet, as Parliament has still to pass legislation to enact the deal and SkyCity must buy land from its neighbour Television New Zealand.

Auckland mayor Len Brown says building consent officers will go through the same process they would with any other development, and the project will not be determined at a political level.

If the building proposal fits within the existing rules of the district plan, the council may be able to sign it off without it going out to public consultation.

SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison says the design should get consent and doesn't believe Aucklanders will need to have a say in what the building looks like.

But the director of the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute at AUT says a design on this scale, with so much public interest, should go out to consultation.

Simon Milne says the most successful convention centre developments are designed to become tourist attractions in themselves, and from impressions he's seen so far the Auckland building does not live up to that standard.

Robert Scott, a town planning consultant who has worked with the Auckland Council, also says it's important that the public have the chance to express their views on the building.

Mr Scott says the planning process can be slow, cumbersome and allow people to bring in vested interests. But it also provides the opportunity for genuine public participation on the things that matter.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett says the council consent process should run as normal, and no public input is needed, while Alex Sweeny of the Heart of the City group says the centre will will rejuvenate the CBD.