Australian investors have offered to spend up to $50 million developing Auckland's Queens Wharf, which has been described as a "pigsty".
The offer to build two commercial buildings on the wharf, in exchange for upgrading the adjacent ferry terminal, comes from a Cayman Islands-registered company fronted by New Zealand businessman Sir Noel Robinson.
Robinson, a prominent supporter of Auckland Mayor Len Brown, said the proposal came from a group of wealthy Australians, and he had no financial investment in the company.
"All I wanted was to see the ferry precinct upgraded."
He dismissed reports that Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart was involved in the company.
Robinson said the group was proposing to lease the land on Queens Wharf from the Auckland Council rather than buying it.
The cost of the project would be $30m to $50 million - "a heck of a lot of money".
Under the proposal, Shed 10 would be retained, but the controversial Cloud building would be removed.
"We're proposing to completely redo the whole ferry terminal so it looks like Circular Quay in Sydney," he said.
"Where Queens Wharf is you'll have a public atrium, ticketing, restaurants, bars and cafes so people waiting don't have to wait in the cold.
"Above it there will be commercial space available."
Robinson said the harbour was the city's "jewel in the crown", but the area around the ferry terminal was a "pigsty".
"At the moment when you walk along there you have to look through a wrought-iron fence."
The offer came at a time when the Auckland Council was facing budgetary pressures, he said.
"If the city doesn't want it, that's fine," he said. "We'll go off and do something else, and in 10 years' time we'll be complaining because nothing's happened."
Alex Swney, chief executive of central-city business association Heart of the City, said he did not care "whether it's Gina Rinehart or John Key" behind the project.
"It's really about what the quality of the project is," he said.
"The thing about people of that substance is they probably have a longer time horizon and more likely to have a quality outcome.
"Just look at Peter Cooper and what he's done at Britomart."
A proposal by NZX-listed Precinct Properties to redevelop its Downtown Shopping Centre opposite the ferry terminal will be looked at by the Auckland Council's development committee next week.
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