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Why should Aucklanders be excited for the events in 2021?

Typically, these events will fill the air with opportunity for event organisers, salty sea dogs and waterfront restaurant owners, but what about the rest of us, who find it hard to see past the bright orange cones and into the promised land of liberated cycle lanes, fast yachts and vibrant business.

So, what can we expect to see by 2021? We chat to Hon Phil Twyford, Minister of Economic Development, and Steve Armitage, General Manager, Destination at Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), about plans to leverage these events for a brighter future for wider Auckland.

Auckland will host the Rugby World Cup 2021 and ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup in the same year

“There is no question 2021 will be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, years in terms of major global events in Auckland,” Armitage said.  After much anticipation, the 36th America’s Cup will set sail in 2021, a chance for Auckland to showcase itself as “a world-class city”.

Some of these developments, as outlined by Auckland Council, will feature 80 new yacht berths, an extended Hobson Wharf for the Challenger of Record base and constructed platforms for the remaining team bases on Wynyard Point. Armitage says, at this stage, everything is going to plan.

Emirates Team New Zealand ‘Te Aihe’, an AC75 foiling monohull, will compete in the 36th America’s Cup in 2021

“In terms of the event village itself, there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes with America’s Cup Events Limited (ACE) as well as the various parts of central government, predominantly MBIE, but also the likes of Auckland Transport’s Harbourmaster to make sure we are all clear that we can provide a safe event, but also ensure we create an event that is accessible to people.”

Aside from the numerous additional waterfront developments, however, the city hopes to please visitors and existing residents with ease of movement, diverse retail offerings, while also showcase the city’s culture and beauty. It expects to reinvigorate Queen Elizabeth Square outside Britomart, reconfigure the ferry terminal and transform Quay Street into a pedestrian friendly promenade.

Armitage says, “Generating a much more pedestrian environment and encouraging the use of bikes is a significant step forward. Obviously private enterprises will play a big part in that too, Commercial Bay will be complete with a whole bunch of food and beverage offerings to help boost what is a competitive offering in Auckland city.”

Mobility will be a key piece in the puzzle, which has become a sort of eternal nightmare for Auckland urban designers. Although the most significant transport project, the City Rail Link, will not be finished in time for the events, the various pedestrian zones, extra cycle lanes and strengthened public transport networks plan to accommodate the extra populations of visitors and provide a more sustainable solution for Aucklanders beyond the events.

Armitage says, “As a resident today, I think transport and the ability to get to where you need to be is really important. If you can get people to understand the result of the construction happening now, we will see a huge legacy benefit from these developments.”

Development at the city’s Wynyard Quarter continues in preparation for the America’s Cup

Armitage is also keen to see the event extend beyond the typically greedy hospitality and retail sector and into the marine, tourism, innovation and tech sectors.

“The benefits of hosting these events will be felt across Auckland and New Zealand, well beyond what happens on the water and in meeting rooms. There will be a number of leverage programmes run including business connections programmes, hosting programmes of key investors, superyacht owners, and international media. The America’s Cup naturally provides another opportunity to showcase our region’s marine industry and technological expertise,” he says.

 It also provides a chance for Auckland to fix up some of its warts, such as the Bulk Storage Terminal at Wynyard Quarter. In August, demolition began on 38 storage tanks, enabling the public space around Silo Park to be expanded in time for the America’s Cup and beyond, for both Aucklanders and visitors to enjoy.

Emirates Team New Zealand ‘Te Aihe’ was launched in September

Armitage agrees that these events provide a strong opportunity to enrich the waterfront, but he says, it’s crucial that we celebrate our cultural heritage.

He states, “If we do anything to the downtown waterfront space, I believe it has to be unique to the space itself. Our M?ori culture is what makes Aotearoa unique. So, it would have to be a product of engaging with mana whenua groups and communities to create something emblematic of our indigenous culture.”

Economic Development Minister Hon Phil Twyford is also feeling feverish about the events in 2021, saying it is going to be a huge year for major events in New Zealand, with Auckland playing a critical hosting and delivery role.

“The variety of events we’re hosting in 2021 showcases many different elements of Auckland and New Zealand on the world stage as a place to visit, study and invest,” Mr Twyford said. “They tell a story about our people, our inclusivity, our determination and our innovation – and all of these things further enhance Auckland’s reputation as an international city.”

Twyford admits he is particularly excited for the America’s Cup, which he says will draw an international audience and create an important platform to profile New Zealand technology and innovation.

“There’s a collaborative approach to the America’s Cup from central and local government, the event deliverers, and mana whenua to leverage these valuable opportunities as best we can, and to connect in businesses and communities.”

But that’s not to say the other events won’t be significant. The Rugby World Cup 2021 and ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup are the first of their kind in Auckland. Twyford says, “It is a great opportunity for us to showcase and celebrate the growth of women’s sport”.

“They also speak directly to the Government’s strategy for Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation. These events will help improve the value and visibility of women’s sport and are already providing leadership opportunities for administrators as preparations ramp up and have the potential to deliver economic benefits and grow sporting participation”.

2021 is a great opportunity to showcase and celebrate the growth of women’s sport

The world cups sit alongside Auckland being current host for the secretariat for the International Working Group on Women in Sport which culminates in the world’s largest conference dedicated to women and girls in sport, in 2022, expected to attract more than 1500 experts on gender equity in sport.

APEC 2021 will be the largest ever international event ever hosted by the New Zealand Government. It will welcome up to 20,000 leaders, ministers, officials and media from across the Asia-Pacific region and represents an important opportunity for New Zealand to shape the trade agenda in our region.

Twyford says, “APEC comprises of senior official meetings throughout the year and culminates in Leaders’ Week in November, bringing together leaders from 21 economies across the Asia-Pacific and around 10,000 people to Auckland. APC economies represent 71 per cent of New Zealand’s two-way trade and is a huge opportunity to grow New Zealand’s trading profile and strengthen connections that will benefit Kiwi businesses in the decades to come.

“Finally, and importantly, 2021 is going to be a lot of fun, and a chance for Kiwis to show our support, warmth and manaakitanga.”

What’s going on in 2021

FIH Pro League


RNZYS 150th Anniversary

Throughout the year

ASB Classic Tennis


The 36th America’s Cup Christmas Cup

TBC Dec/Jan

AC36 Prada Cup (Challenger Series)

Jan/Feb 2021

ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup

Jan/Feb 2021

Auckland Laneways Festival

Jan 2021

WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup 2021

19 – 28 Feb 2021

Te Matatini

23-27 Feb 2021

Auckland Lantern Festival 2021

25-28 Feb 2021

The 36th America’s Cup

6-21 March 2021


6 – 7 March 2021

Ports of Auckland Round the Bays


ICF Canoe Slalom U23 World Champs

April 19 – 24 2021

Rugby World Cup 2021

July/Aug 2021

Elemental AKL 2021

1 July – 31 July

APEC21 Senior Officials Meeting 3 and Food Security Week

Aug 2021

APEC21 Women in the Economy Forum

Aug/Sept 2021

Auckland Diwali Festival 2021

30 – 31 October 2021

ASB Auckland Marathon


APEC21 Leaders’ Week

8-14 November 2021

Review overview