Carmen is a social issues and rural reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

$350 million boom for CBD

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Tauranga CBD. Photo / George Novak
Tauranga CBD. Photo / George Novak

More than $350 million could be pumped into the Tauranga CBD within seven years thanks to future developments, on top of $150 million that has already been injected over the last five years, new data shows.

Another 13 companies are also contemplating a move to the Bay that may generate 186 potential jobs and $9.2 million in capital investment.

Priority One business relocation manager Max Mason said the investments would transform Tauranga into a modern and vibrant city with a strong commercial CBD.

The economic agency had identified potential investment that included the new university and research campus ($50 million), international hotel and conference centre ($55 million) tertiary student accommodation ($40 million) and the TCC civic building and civic square ($35 million).

"The commercial developments will be influenced by normal business challenges. On the other hand, the civic- or council-influenced developments will be affected by a mix of political and organisational factors."

One of the greatest challenges was also an opportunity, he said.

"Over the last few months, Tauranga City Council has been undertaking a comprehensive consultation on the opportunities that could be on offer as a result of the mould issues in their current head office building. These range from the status quo to the creation of a real civic and cultural heart in our city centre as the most ambitious.

"This could include a civic square and green space, a museum, an international hotel, a conference centre and a contemporary performing arts centre."

Many of these projects would leverage off each other, for example the international hotel and conference centre, he said.

"If they get this right, a world-class city centre will be their legacy."

More than half of the 13 companies thinking of relocating to the Bay would import products through Port of Tauranga, store them in a warehouse, and then distribute them to cities around New Zealand.

"Two are very big manufacturers and we are competing with other locations in New Zealand and Australia to be shortlisted."

The ongoing CBD developments had been welcomed by Civic Amenities Group chairman Paul Adams but he blamed draconian council planning policies for the disappearance of hundreds of professional people and staff who "were the lifeblood of the CBD".

"It was brought about by bad council policy allowing ribbon office development to take place along Cameron Rd and other non-CBD areas." But the investment in new CBD buildings by private enterprise and the University of Waikato "is very real", he said. As a developer, Mr Adams had purchased 53 Spring St to show his commitment to Tauranga, he said.

Tauranga City mayor Stuart Crosby said the CBD was "starting to ramp up and it will gather its own momentum as Priority One are predicting".

The council was actively working to help grow and facilitate more activity in the central business area, and started planning its revitalisation six to eight years ago, he said.

"We were aware that when we did our suburban developments that they would have an impact on the CBD as we had these external shopping centres in Bethlehem, Papamoa and Tauriko as we knew years ago that they would have an impact on the CBD."

Now there was a lot of interest in the CBD and it was the council's role to help facilitate that new growth, he said.

In June or July, the council would go to the community "with stage one of our proposal which will essentially evolve around accommodation for our organisation, more car parking and more open civic spaces".

Mr Crosby said the Civic Amenities Group was involved with its forward planning and you could argue "it wasn't draconian planning that allowed the ribbon development of commercial enterprises ... too much freedom was granted to allow that to happen".

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stan Gregec said the big-ticket items like the council building and university campus would definitely have a major impact on both the look and feel of the city centre.

"The opportunity to integrate these into an improved cityscape and living spaces should not be squandered."

Smaller business relocations were always welcome "but they are simply an indicator of how the bigger picture is looking", he said. "If the big investors see opportunity, the smaller guys will follow."

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