Ambitious plans for a Waikato River Tourist Centre and extensive wharf have been floated by local entrepreneur Bill Handcock.
His vision embraces a two-storey tourist centre, representing eight canoes in a Maori meeting house format, and a floating jetty big enough to accommodate a tourist paddle boat, water taxis, kayaks and, possibly, a river-going waka.
The design of the centre allows for tourist boat operators and a i-Site installation on the ground floor with upper floor dedicated to the guardians of the river, educational facilities, safety briefings and local arts and crafts.
Bill Handcock says Hamilton has limited tourist attractions and visitors will be even harder to attract when the Waikato Expressway and bypass is completed.
He has been involved with the Waikato River-based Waipa Delta tourist operation. He has a deep knowledge of the required and lacking infrastructure on the river.
Bill sees his design proposal for a tourist centre in Grantham St, alongside the Ferrybank Lounge, as a means of getting the ball rolling for a strategy to take advantage of the Waikato River's untapped resources.
"New Zealand only has one Hamilton," he says.
And this Hamilton has the world's only Waikato River running through it.
"It's a beautiful untapped resource and this city needs to do something about it."
Bill says it is obvious life needs to be injected back into Hamilton CBD.
He says the CBD competing with other malls is merely fighting over Hamilton people spending money in Hamilton.
"What we need is a tourist attraction to encourage tourists to the city to import foreign dollars. The tourist centre could be the hub to tie together other regional attractions - Hobbiton, glow worm caves, wild life reserves, day trips to Rotorua, Raglan and Thames."
Bill envisions the wharf being the emabarkation point for a new 34m paddle boat, the Cambridge jet boat operation, a waka cruising business plus kayak and canoe hire sites.
Visitors attracted to the riverside centre would overflow to use golf courses, horse trekking, paintball, Hamilton Gardens, cycle tracks, river paths and regional day walks.
"I started this before the Waipa Delta paddle boat left town. What we need is a strategy to attract people here, to create tourist businesses to cater for their needs and generate funds for the city and region."
Bill says to enable river tourism to be developed Hamilton required strategic planning and investment in infrastructure and marketing.
"My proposal is an effort to get the ball rolling.
"I am well aware there are people in the wings ready to get on board an operation such as this. It's time like minded operators and interested companies got together to take this further."
Like minded people can call Bill Handcock on 850 4476.