Tauranga: Council floats $300 million plan for civic rebuild, rates rise

The “preferred” option of building Tauranga’s civic redevelopment in a single stage has been costed at $303.4 million.

But some say the huge cost – which will result in a rates rise – will be worth it.

In a Tauranga City Council meeting yesterday, commissioners agreed to consult with the community on which design should be used to carry out the Civic Precinct Masterplan – “Te Manawataki o Te Papa”.

The first option includes a library, civic whare (venue for council and community meetings), museum and exhibition space. It also includes the development of the waterfront reserve, between Hamilton and Wharf streets, linking the harbour with the civic precinct via Masonic Park.

The second option includes a library and community hub and the civic whare.

Programme manager of civic redevelopment projects Mike Naude told commissioners the first option would cost $303.4m and would take six years to complete compared to the second $126.8m option which was expected to take 14 years.

Staff recommended the “preferred” first option as it could be carried out as a single-stage project, rather than individual builds carried out in silo. The advantage of this was the council would be able to consolidate the designers, labour, and production costs by maintaining the same contractors.

“It’s really important we see this as a holistic campus plan being delivered [rather than] a large ongoing set of projects,” he said.

The benefits of this methodology provided reassurance and security for all involved, he said.

“Making sure you don’t have a stop-go and have full continuation will certainly speed up delivery of the project,” he said.

However, the funding needed was yet to be sourced.

Half of the cost of the civic precinct developments would be debt-funded and financed through rates, with the balance funded from other sources such as Government grants, the sale of non-core council assets and sponsorship.

Commission chairwoman Anne Tolley said: “It’s such a significant project . . . what if we don’t raise all of that money?

“It’s a bit scary that as a single-stage project, that we are committing to, as a ratepayer, we’d want to know that due diligence has been done.”

Council chief executive Marty Grenfell said there were checkpoints along the way which the future commissioners or council will be abreast of. He was confident of finding the “external” funding, he said.

The project was the largest Tauranga city residents will see in a generation, Grenfell said.

General manager of corporate services Paul Davidson told the meeting the likely impact of the $303.4m option would be an increase of 0.7 per cent to rates over the next eight years, compared to 0.4 per cent with the second option.

General manager of community services Gareth Wallis said he recalled being a child and having to board a bus to go to Waihi for a museum excursion because there was no Tauranga option. The preferred civic rebuild option would change that.

“It’s pretty exciting, for the first time in a long time we are having a conversation about creating a genuine community space to tell our stories and not have to leave town to do so.”

Commissioner Stephen Selwood said it was all about “having a vision for this city . . .and future development of the city centre which we haven’t had for a while”.

“It’s vital that we have a project of this significance to galvanise the city as one in its future development.”

Selwood referred to walking through the CBD recently and noting the empty stores.

“The city has clearly died. This is our unique opportunity to put Tauranga on the map, not only to wider New Zealand but also to the people of Tauranga.”

After the meeting, Downtown Tauranga chairman Brian Berry said the project was important for the community and “it really should be done properly”.

“Tauranga and the CBD is transforming to being a regional business and cultural hub for the region and we are a city of significance now in New Zealand.

“This investment needs to be put in now rather than stretching it out of multiple years. It’s really important. I would rather increase the costs now, who knows what the costs will blow out to later down the track.”

In a previous story, Tauranga Ratepayers’ Association spokesman Ross Crowley said there was no question the CBD needed a reboot.

He believed, however, the proposed museum would be a “white elephant” that would soak up money that could be better used elsewhere.

In that same story, Papamoa Residents and Ratepayers Association’s Philip Brown was concerned the project would generate debt for the city.

Community consultation on the civic rebuild will take place from March 25.

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