13 Sep 2011

Government invokes Cup powers to take over Queens Wharf

6:55 pm on 13 September 2011

The Government is taking control of the area of downtown Auckland around Queens Wharf for the rest of the Rugby World Cup.

The Government and Auckland authorities have been under fire for problems on Friday night, when transport services were overwhelmed as people flooded in to downtown Auckland for the Cup opening party and 60,000 people tried to get to Eden Park for the opening game.

Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully made the announcement late on Tuesday afternoon.

He says the Government is invoking special legislation created last year to allow it to step in to ensure the tournament runs smoothly.

Mr McCully says he hopes it will rectify any operational problems encountered on Friday night.

Specifically, he says, the fan zone area at Queens Wharf will be enlarged to Quay Street, in case the crowd overflows. He has also asked for better access to nearby wharves.

Mr McCully says he also wants to ensure road closures on Quay Street are effective, and there are more buses.

He told Checkpoint the Government does not want a repeat of Friday night.

Joyce promises more transport

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says additional capacity on Auckland's public transport networks will be available over the rest of the Rugby World Cup.

He says he's confident everything possible was done prior to the tournament to provide sufficient high quality public transport during the event.

He says in the time the Government had available, it funded and completed the scheduled infrastructure improvements.

But Mr Joyce says no-one expected the numbers of people who attended the events on Friday night.

Auckland mayor Len Brown says he did not have any warning of the Minister's announcement.

Mr Brown says a process for changes had already been agreed by officials and, choosing his words carefully, said communication from the minister could have been better.

Asked whether the public would see Mr McCully's announcement as overrunning the mayoralty, Mr Brown replied that it would be up to Aucklanders to decide.

Auckland and the Government jointly own the fan zone area of Queens Wharf.

No events as large as Friday opening ceremony are planned for the rest of the tournament.

The Rugby World Cup Empowering Act gives the Government extensive powers including the ability to fast track consents and liquor licences.