A-Maze-In’ Auckland

February 3, 2020, Auckland, NZ

Last time I was in Auckland, two years ago, the area along the waterfront and for a few blocks up Queen Street was torn up for renovation.  Auckland is renovating its entire waterfront and we were told it would be done in two years.  Two years later and it is still torn up.  Some sections are restored, the disruption has moved west a block but it is still a mess for traffic and pedestrians but I can better see how it will develop.  Auckland like other major port cities, is developing old docklands that had been cut off from their central business districts by wharves, warehouses and railway tracks.  This one, I think, will be more seaport oriented than some of the others (like Jersey City, or London Docklands) because New Zealand’s yachting culture. Auckland is already called the city of sails.  In a way the waterfront is becoming kind of an America’s Cup theme park, with some other epic sailing yacht races thrown into the mix.  The waterfront includes an excellent maritime museum and displays of sailing yachts, including one with a plaining hull.  It also had a whale sculpture made from plastic garbage picked up from beaches.

The old ferry building is still at the waterfront’s center, turned into a modern terminal.  It dispatches ferries to Devonport and islands like Waiheke.  Viaduct Harbor and the Wynyard districts are repurposed, with some of the old buildings taking on new form and function.  Of course, there is the cruise ship terminal.  The tourist map says “Auckland is going through a period of major transformation and by 2021 it will look very different.”  It gives a website to check on how the changes may affect you.

I can tell you how they affect me.  It was very difficult to get, on foot, to places I could clearly see.  Making my way to them was counterintuitive.  We were trying to get to a pharmacy on Albert Street about two blocks from the ship.  I walked up Albert Street until I was directly across from the Pharmacy, but because of the barricades there was no way of reaching it directly.  The signs directed me to the right, away from the pharmacy, half a block and across the street then back to Albert Street, now I was kitty corner from the pharmacy.  Up (as in up a hill) Albert Street further and again a right turn, cross the street, and back to Albert a block still further from the Pharmacy.  This time it was across the side street and then diagonally across Albert street to allow cars on Albert to make a right turn.  Then it was down Albert street, diverted toward Queen Street up a hill, across the side street before getting to Queen Street, diverted through an arcade, back to Albert until I was across from the pharmacy but I still could not cross the side street, so again up a hill on a different side street toward Queen and back down to the pharmacy.  Whew!  I really needed a pharmacy by then.

Back to the ship took us down Albert Street, to Customs House Road, down customs house to Queen Street, through the Britomart train station (I may not have actually gone through the station but, hey, it’s a train station), down a pedestrian mall to Quay street, down Quay street, past the ship and finally across Quay street, backtracking along Quay street to the ship.  Got it?  Google maps completely failed me.  Since there were a lot of street crossings with no traffic lights Auckland has hired crossing guards who give encouragement along the way, like spectators at a marathon.  “Keep going, almost there.” 

I said to one of the guards “This is a cruel psych experiment replacing rats in the maze with people.” 

She had a good laugh, “come back next year and it will all be finished.”

“They said that two years ago!”

“Oh, that was just politicians talking.  Next year we host America’s Cup, it has to be done or their heads will roll.”  She said “roll” with such gusto.  A maze in’ Auckland.

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