'Get foreign help to build next bridge'

16:00, Oct 17 2009
bridge
The proponents of a new harbour bridge for Auckland want a structure fit for rail traffic and pedestrians, rather than focusing solely on road traffic. Pictured is a conceptual diagram produced by the Anzac Centenary Bridge Group.

AN URBAN design expert says Auckland is "architecturally banal" and needs a dramatic new structure such as a new bridge across the harbour – but the city doesn't have the talent to do it without help from overseas.

Kiwi expatriate Davina Jackson, an architectural writer and a director of Sydney's multimedia Smart Light festival, said an international design competition should be held to pick a replacement for the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Jackson – who supports a group of architects, engineers and politicians lobbying to build a new bridge instead of a tunnel under the Waitemata Harbour – said a spectacular new bridge could steal global New Year's Eve celebration TV coverage off Sydney.

But Jackson added that Auckland had a "copyist culture" among its urban designers and should look overseas for talent.

"Maybe you've got some genius in the wings there, but from what I've seen of New Zealand architecture there's nothing at the level of genius that it would be great to see Auckland have."

Genius didn't cost any more, she said.

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She described the current 50-year-old bridge as "clunky".

"It looks very do-it-yourself, kind of `mock up an imitation of the Sydney one, eh?' It just doesn't cut it as an icon of the city in the 21st century."

Jackson said international TV cameras should rightfully be pointed at New Zealand on New Year's Eve – because Kiwis saw in the new year two hours earlier than Australians – but typically they filmed fireworks on Sydney's Harbour Bridge because there was no visual spectacle good enough here.

Transport Minister Stephen Joyce will announce by the end of the year what it will build as an extra harbour crossing. The current bridge is heavily congested and there have been concerns about the long-term safety of the "Nippon Clip-ons" – the outer two lanes on each side of the bridge. Transit New Zealand's preferred option is a tunnel, but there is growing support for a bridge.

A big challenge for bridge designers would be building it high enough for tall ships to pass underneath, while creating a low enough gradient for walking, cycling and rail.

A lobby group led by former Auckland City transport chairperson Richard Simpson, and supported by New Zealand Steel – the Anzac Centenary Bridge Group – will present its business case to the government in a fortnight.

Detractors say that speeding up completion of a new crossing – in time for 2015 Anzac centenary celebrations, as the group wants – will mean delaying other big transport projects.

       THE CASE FOR A BRIDGE

Source: ANZAC Centenary Bridge Group

esther.harward@star-times.co.nz

Sunday Star Times