Help stop the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square in downtown Auckland

This is it, the evidence is before the court. For those available to attend it is being held this week in courtroom 2.01 at the Environment Court, 41 Federal St, from 9:30 each day from Monday to Friday 22nd July. We hope to see supporters there and will keep you updated as we hear more!

As architects, urban designers and planners, the AAA are taking Council to court to stop the sale of Auckland’s downtown civic square.

The Auckland Architecture Association are taking court action to challenge the legality of Council decisions to sell Queen Elizabeth Square. Four other incorporated societies have joined the legal challenge: Auckland CBD Residents Advisory Group; Civic Trust Auckland; Urban Auckland Society for Protection of Auckland City and the Waterfront (which successfully stopped the Bledisloe Wharf extensions); and Walk Auckland.

We need your support to strengthen our legal challenge and retain this important civic space in public ownership.

Downtown Auckland is woefully short of public open space for its existing residents, workers, and visitors. Takutai, St Patrick’s, Queen Elizabeth and Freyburg Squares play their part, but even Council’s assessments are that Auckland’s inner CBD lacks urban public space.
Census projections are that Auckland’s downtown population is increasing dramatically. This adds to the pressure for public open space for children, families, office workers, shoppers, commuters, tourists, and retired city dwellers.

Despite this Auckland Council has voted to sell Queen Elizabeth Square for $27 million to property developer Precinct Properties. We agree with Council that the square has not been successful – because the 1970’s downtown shops don’t open onto the Square, and because the bus shelter divided the space.
But that’s all changed. The buses have moved to Lower Albert Street. Precinct has consent to redevelop downtown with laneways and shops open to the square. Queen Elizabeth Square, combined with Lower Queen Street will make a great downtown square. Like the picture postcard image of the 1990’s, and consistent with Council’s City Centre Masterplan.
Council says it will invest the $27 million on other spaces such as the breastworks of Queens Wharf and the north side of Quay Street opposite the PWC building. We say those areas are already in public ownership. We also consider they are very different public spaces than the recessed, sheltered, safe and activated Queen Elizabeth Square. It’s not a like for like swap.

We support the CRL tunnel. We support Precinct’s proposals to redevelop downtown Auckland. But there’s no need to sell Queen Elizabeth Square.

We believe this is an unjustified loss of public open space that is protected by the District Plan, is ready for improvement, and will be needed more and more in future. The retail buildings proposed instead would affect views of the heritage Ferry Building and Central Post Office Building, cause further shading, and diminish the size and scale of Auckland’s premier civic space. (See the bulk and location effects in our Give-A-Little Updates).

Two statutory steps stands in the way of the sale. Plan Change 79 and a Road Stop proposal. Both have been appealed to the Environment Court by Auckland Architectural Association Inc.

Expert evidence has been exchanged. A five day environment court hearing starts on Monday 18th July. We have raised funds and obtained the services of experts and lawyers at heavily discounted rates. Our experts include:

  • Bridget Gilbert (Landscape Architecture)

  • Graeme Scott (Urban Design)

  • Jeremy Salmond (Heritage)

  • Brian Putt (Planning)

  • David Gibbs (Urban Design)

  • Dave Serjeant (Planning)

  • Brianna Parkinson (Legal Counsel)


We need your financial support to cover final expert and legal costs, and mount the strongest case we can in court. Please support this public interest cause.

Alistair Munro