John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Cruise ship centre on cards at Mount

Mount Mainstreet manager Peter Melgren. Photo/file
Mount Mainstreet manager Peter Melgren. Photo/file

A new i-Port information and booking centre for cruise ship passengers could be built on the other side of the port fence in Mount Maunganui's Coronation Park.

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the old i-Port inside the port gates was reaching the end of its life and the council was discussing its replacement with Tourism Bay of Plenty.

He said the i-Port in two converted containers had about one more cruise ship season left, which meant the council and Tourism Bay of Plenty had to make decisions this year on a better facility for the tourism industry and cruise passengers in particular.

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Tourism Bay of Plenty's first priority was to upgrade or build a visitor information centre for the tourism and cruise ship industry, with one option to put it in Coronation Park next to the port fence.

It would involve talks with the port company to ensure safe access to the i-Port for cruise ship passengers.

The second priority was whether to put a visitor information i-Site in the Mount downtown's Phoenix carpark.

Mr Crosby said the council was consulting on concepts to redevelop the carpark, with space allocated for an i-Site even if it was not built straight away.

One option was to make it a joint-venture development with Mount Mainstreet, so it was both Mainstreet's office and a visitor information centre. "We will firm up plans for Phoenix carpark in 2016," said Mr Crosby.

Mount Mainstreet manager Peter Melgren welcomed the study because the Mount was an integral visitor attraction in Western Bay.

The Phoenix carpark at Mount Maunganui is a possible location for a new i-Site. Photo / John Borren
The Phoenix carpark at Mount Maunganui is a possible location for a new i-Site. Photo / John Borren

The closure of the Mount's downtown visitor information centre in 2012 had seen the Mainstreet office pick up some some visitor-support services.

"However, there is no way we can offer similar services to the Tauranga downtown's i-Site," he said. Mr Melgren said the visitor centre was part of a much bigger picture in which the council was reviewing the role of Tourism Bay of Plenty.

The industry needed to be a bit more strategic to get the best out of cruise ships, he said.

In the meantime Mainstreet's office would continue to offer visitor information services.

"We can't close the door [to visitors] and tell them to go away." He was assisted by a team of 10 volunteers over the summer, with one helping out in the office.

Mr Crosby said the discussions with Tourism Bay of Plenty needed to proceed at a "reasonable pace" if the plans were to go into the council's 2017-18 Annual Plan at the latest.

"We would like to have at least made a decision by June 2016 regarding the replacement of the i-Port in and around the port."

The third priority in the talks with Tourism Bay of Plenty was the future of the i-Site in Tauranga's downtown.

The i-Site is located in the council's civic centre, which is being investigated for re-development since toxic mould was discovered in areas of the buildings in 2014.

Passengers' preferences:

* 10 per cent remain on board.

* 35 per cent use the shipboard booking service, mainly to Rotorua or Hobbiton.

* 55 per cent disembark as free agents.

* 6 to 8 per cent of total passengers book tours through the portside i-Port.

- Source: Tourism Bay of Plenty

- Bay of Plenty Times

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