As part of our Faces of the City series, we chat to inspiring people doing great things in their chosen industries. One of these people is Fiona Knox, Priority Location Director for the Waterfront & City at Panuku Development, who has been leading the team of creatives and builders working on the regeneration of Auckland's waterfront since 2009. Prepared for another huge year in 2020 with the 36th America's Cup right around the corner in March 2021, we asked Fiona what she loves most about her role, what transformations she's most looking forward to, and what she believes makes our waterfront so unique.

Tell us about your role at Panuku, what does a typical day look like for you?

With a day job that involves things like finding new homes for fishing boats, ferries and seaplanes, and making decisions about new parks and buildings in one of Auckland’s most masterplanned neighbourhoods – my day has to start with a great coffee. I’ve been working on the regeneration of Auckland’s waterfront since 2009, well before Wynyard Quarter was opened in 2011. Something I’ve learnt is that making great cities takes an enormous amount of skilled people from designers, planners, placemakers and project managers. My role is to lead a team of city builders with skills like these to make sure that the ongoing regeneration of the waterfront, particularly through the America's Cup, makes Aucklanders proud of this area of their city.

You’re a key player when it comes to the regeneration of Auckland’s waterfront - in your opinion, what makes our waterfront so unique and special? 

Aucklanders are so lucky to have such a beautiful harbour at the foot of our city. The water’s edge is where everyone wants to be. Our downtown waterfront has been opened up over the past 20 years to be a place for everyone to enjoy, and there is so much more to come. Soon people will be able to walk and cycle along the extended Westhaven walkway and cycleway from the Harbour Bridge, right into the city, there will be new parks in Wynyard Quarter and a new marine services facility near Silo Park will cater for 300 new jobs in the marine sector. Personally, I find the waterfront special because of the amazing transformation this place has undergone, opening up this once private area of port land to the public of Auckland has transformed our city centre. I’m really proud that this has been recognised through international awards, but mostly, it’s the happy people enjoying the space that makes all the hard work worthwhile.

"Our downtown waterfront has been opened up over the past 20 years to be a place for everyone to enjoy, and there is so much more to come."

America's Cup in Wynyard Quarter


With just over a year to go, the 36th America’s Cup is almost here! What can Aucklanders and visitors expect when it’s hosted on our waterfront?

Hosting the America's Cup is the time for us to celebrate our sea-loving Pacific nation. Our waterfront will reflect this pride. We have put extra effort in to get new calm waterspace built for people to enjoy the theatre of the boats being put in and hauled out, we will have new parks ready to open and lots of events and activities for people who want to just enjoy the buzzing atmosphere. It’s been a mammoth task to get new wharves and base platforms built. So much thought, hard work and passion has gone into transforming the waterfront to be ready for this event – we have been operating in sprint mode to get everything done. The local business and residents have been so patient with all the moving parts. Most importantly the new parts of the area that have been built for the event will provide a welcoming destination that will last well beyond a single sporting event.

"I find the waterfront special because of the amazing transformation this place has undergone, opening up this once private area of port land to the public of Auckland has transformed our city centre. I’m really proud that this has been recognised through international awards, but mostly, it’s the happy people enjoying the space that makes all the hard work worthwhile."

What is the most exciting transformation project you’re looking forward to seeing completed in the city centre and why?

With so much underway it’s hard to choose, but I am looking forward to the completion of the next stage of Westhaven Promenade (due September). When stage one opened, I used to walk there with my newborn daughter in her pram, now she’s confidently biking confidently down it. Time flies! We have a new park on Daldy Street opening soon and it is always great to see people enjoying new open spaces. I am really looking forward to a glass of champagne to celebrate the start of the America’s Cup. After the epic amount of effort that has gone in since June 2017 to get ready for the America’s Cup, I am very much looking forward to seeing people enjoy the event and the new parts of the waterfront. Hopefully we will also see Emirates Team New Zealand win out there on the water!

Tell us what else it is you love about the city centre - do you have places (restaurants, shops) you frequent? 

Wynyard Quarter is obviously a favourite place with its wonderful range of cafés and restaurants, my husband works there too, so that’s an added draw card. Rushworth Coffee is a favourite and I and recently had lunch down at Sanford's refurbished Auckland Fish Market, which is has a great range on offer. Buoy at Westhaven is a favourite for the weekend with a walk into the city afterwards.  

For more on the city centre and waterfront transformations, click here

Last updated: 11 March 2020

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