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Objections to America's Cup Centre Appear Resolved

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Nov. 4, 1996) — The Resource Consent Hearings to hear objections and support for the proposed America's Cup Centre were adjourned after just one hour on the first day, after the developer struck a deal with one of the major objectors.

The objector was Viaduct Harbour Holdings Ltd., which owns much of the western side of the Viaduct Basin and also has seabed rights in some of this area, according to reports in the New Zealand Herald.

The deal will allow Auckland Regional Services Trust (ARST), which is seeking the consents necessary to develop the Centre, to buy the area known as the "Log Farm" (an unsightly area currently used as a storage area for logs awaiting export). Four syndicate bases will now be built on this site. It is understood that Viaduct Harbour Holdings will have the first option to buy back the land after the America's Cup series.

The second leg of the deal will allow a developer appointed by ARST to build over existing seawalls and reclaim seabed. Viaduct Holdings is reported to have agreed to cancel its rights over the seabed areas that could be turned into land.

Auckland Regional Council officers (ARC is the body conducting the hearings) have recommended approving the bulk of ARST's application and had declined a competing application by Viaduct Harbour, the fishing industry and the Auckland City Council for seabed occupation rights in the Viaduct Basin.

It also was revealed that ARST has, in principle, settled a swap with Ports of Auckland to allow ARST to demolish the Western Viaduct Wharf and build new wharves. ARST will give part of the new wharf, along with two other new wharves to the Port company in return for the water-space rights needed.

The two deals with Ports of Auckland and Viaduct Holdings would give ARST complete rights and effective ownership of the whole of the western side of the Viaduct Basin.

The Resource Consent hearings began last Wednesday. This is the final stage in the process for public objection prior to planning approval being given for construction of the America's Cup Centre. The Hearings will proceed later this week and are expected to last for about 10 days.

In other submissions to the Auckland Regional Council, Sir Peter Blake of Team New Zealand praised the efforts of ARST to build the NZ$51 million America's Cup Centre, adding that if the facility was not built, then the effects of the event would be reduced by 60 percent (if, indeed, it is possible to hold the event at all).

The ARST is investing NZ$31 million in the scheme, the New Zealand government will contribute a further NZ$10 million and the balance is expected from other sources. The proposed rental charges to overseas syndicates have not yet been revealed; however, the CEO of the ARST is reported as saying that he expected "significant negotiation and debate" with syndicates over the price.

He also said that any relative losses to the Trust from not investing in more lucrative vetures had to be balanced against the likely community benefits of a Cup defence.

The deadline for appeals runs out just before Christmas. An appeal would delay the start of construction for at least three months, and possibly much longer. The contingency plan, if time is short, is to use more expensive construction methods to achieve the completion date in 1998.

The Auckland Regional Services Trust intends to send copies of a prospectus to potiential race syndicates next week, and will require firm commitments and deposits from the syndicates by Christmas. A spokesman for ARST declined to comment on the amount that ARST intended to charge syndicates for space at the America's Cup Centre.

Given that there are currently 10 challenges, plus Team New Zealand, plus a couple of others in the wings — and given that the size of the development has been reduced to accomodate 12-13 racing teams — it is likely that space in this area will be at a premium. There are few other sites in the Waitemata Harbour capable of taking IACC yachts without substantial dredging, so syndicates making late bookings may miss out.

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This report is courtesy of sailing columnist Richard Gladwell in New Zealand and the Compuserve Sail Racing Forum, where the original articles first appeared.

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