The New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC) moved another step closer to reality today with the turning of the first sod on the site of the landmark project by Prime Minister John Key.
Mr Key was joined on site by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, SKYCITY Chairman Chris Moller and Chief Executive Nigel Morrison, NZICC General Manager Simon Jamieson and Fletcher Construction Chief Executive Graham Darlow.
Pieces of earth from the ground beneath the 14,000 sqm site were placed in a waka huia (treasure container) and blessed by Ngati Whatua kaumatua Bob Hawke. They will be held by the NZICC and incorporated into the completed building.
The distinctive logo of the NZICC, featuring the New Zealand fern, was etched in sand and earth at the ceremony by up-and-coming Mt Maunganui artist Jamie Harkins, who specialises in 3D beach art and landscape painting.
The groundbreaking ceremony follows eight weeks of demolition on the site of the two-storey convention centre and 5-star, 300-room hotel, which is being developed by SKYCITY Entertainment Group and built by Fletcher Construction under an agreement with the Crown.
The sod-turning paves the way for a much larger dig; the excavation of a 22m hole to prepare for the foundations and underground structure for what will be the largest purpose-built convention centre in the country.
In the first half of next year the NZICC and the Hobson Street hotel will begin to rise on the site.
The $700 million project, one of the largest in downtown Auckland since the Sky Tower, is creating an estimated 1,000 jobs on site during the build plus an additional 2,000 jobs in associated industries flowing on from the construction project, according to Fletcher Construction. Once open, the NZICC and hotel will create more than 1,000 jobs across the new entertainment precinct.
SKYCITY Chief Executive Nigel Morrison says it was exciting to see the development of the NZICC now moving at pace.
“Over the past year we have moved from design and planning to approvals and action. It was just before Christmas that we last donned hard hats to commence demolition of walls on this site – now we’re turning the first sod.’’
Mr Morrison says each year Auckland is becoming more of a leading international city and is now in the middle of a development boom, recently appearing in the top 20 on the City Momentum Index, which rates commercial growth in world cities, for the first time.
“The landmark NZICC building, and next to it the 5-star, 300-room hotel and laneway with bars and restaurants, is an integral part of this city’s development; a $700 million investment in much-needed tourism infrastructure in downtown Auckland that will see the Victoria Quarter become an attractive and vibrant part of the city.
“SKYCITY is proud to be delivering the development of an international convention centre facility that will allow New Zealand to compete on the world stage,’’ Mr Morrison says.
When open in 2019, the NZICC will be capable of hosting conventions of around 3,000 people, and one-off events of up to 4,000 people on the exhibition floor. It will also be able to host multiple events at the same time.
The NZICC’s exhibition hall alone will be five times larger than the current largest exhibition hall in the country – SKYCITY Convention Centre’s New Zealand Room.
NZICC General Manager Simon Jamieson says the centre will see New Zealand becoming even more competitive on a global stage, with Auckland having the ability to bid for high-level, major international business events.
“Our architects and designers have created a stunning, welcoming, uniquely New Zealand building that will fast become a treasured part of the Auckland cityscape,’’ Mr Jamieson says.
“The NZICC will deliver real returns for New Zealand, not only in job creation and delegate spend but in the sharing of knowledge.’’
Fletcher Building Chief Executive Mark Adamson says the company has made great progress on the site since beginning work in December, with 11 of the 16 buildings on the site having been demolished.
“Today’s ceremony is very timely as we’re about to begin the next phase of this important project.
“A piling rig will shortly begin drilling holes for the concrete columns which will anchor the site during excavation. The hole for this project will be 22 metres at its deepest.’’
Mr Adamson said the demolition is on track and will receive a final boost this weekend, when a 600-tonne crane from the Waterview Connection roading project will come onto the NZICC site to assist with the demolition of the largest remaining buildings.