John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Civic heart project generates huge interest

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Tackling the railway line issue is one of the issues Max Lewis wants the Tauranga City Council to consider in its civic heart redevelopment project.  PHOTO/FILE
Tackling the railway line issue is one of the issues Max Lewis wants the Tauranga City Council to consider in its civic heart redevelopment project. PHOTO/FILE

Tauranga downtown's civic heart project has attracted the most public feedback for a single issue in Mayor Stuart Crosby's 27-year involvement in city politics.

The project has galvanised 555 people into action, with one submitter saying that it would become an election issue.

Mr Crosby was encouraged by the public input: "I thought 300 plus would be a good result."

The count did not include the few more submissions expected to be received in yesterday's mail after the council allowed a period of grace past Monday's official closing date.

Civic Heart centred on a proposal to spend $68 million on a new council administration building and civic plaza, $2.5 million to convert Masonic Park into a new city square, and $400,000 on feasibility studies for a new library, museum and performance centre.

Mr Crosby said the submitters were spread across the whole city from Papamoa East to Bethlehem. He put a lot of the response down to staff efforts to get out into the community and push the submissions process.

He said it was the highest number of submissions for a single issue that he could recall. Quizzed whether it would make decisions harder, Mr Crosby said it was not the quantity but the quality of submissions.

"We will listen to everybody, whether it was a group or organisation pushing a particular line or individuals. We will put the same weight on every submission, no matter where it comes from."

He said it would be a hard job to make decisions based on both the information in front of council members and the submissions, but he was looking forward to the challenge.

One of the submitters, retired Mount Maunganui mechanical engineer Max Lewis, told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend that council's vision for the CBD was too narrow.

The council needed to advertise internationally for city planning architects to present a suite of alternative cityscape designs and funding options, he said.

"This will be an election issue for sure."

Mr Lewis said it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to renew the city's heart. The rebuild needed to cater for Tauranga's administrative, community and cultural needs while projecting a creative and dynamic image.

He urged the council to go global and ask urban rebuild experts to submit concepts from which a short list would be selected. It could cover a design and build process via a public/private partnership or shared construction and financing agreements.

Mr Lewis believed the rebuild should achieve a better connection between the CBD and the Mount, fully open the CBD to the harbour along the length of The Strand, improve people movement in the downtown, and consider the impacts on the CBD of the planned university campus, expanded port activity and accelerated development of New Zealand's "Golden Triangle" of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.

Tauranga Civic Heart Project
Submissions: 555
Submitters requesting speaking rights: 74
Hearings of submissions: August 1, 2 and 3.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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