Councillors yesterday heard from nine of more than 200 submitters on a proposal which would see land at 8 and 10 Dent St leased or sold to a developer for a four-star hotel.
Whangarei lawyer Ian Reeves said in his submission supporting the proposal that developments in the Whangarei district were promoting it as an attractive place to visit and do business.
"A hotel on that site would build on the enhancements the council's making at the Town Basin," he told councillors yesterday. "The site seems to have a lot of attributes that would be attractive to a developer."
Mr Reeves said the city would be a better place for having a wider choice of accommodation, and more employment opportunities.
However, Deanna Niha, manager at Forum North Childcare Centre at 10 Dent St, spoke of her 22-year involvement with the centre as a parent, aunt and employee.
She said as a community-based, not-for-profit centre it offered a unique environment for its children and families, and became emotional when she talked about the importance of investing in Whangarei's youth.
"I want to see Whangarei grow and prosper, but at whose expense?" she said. "I believe the council needs to see our centre as an investment in the future of Whangarei itself."
Ms Niha said the environment and location of the centre was crucial, as many of their parents didn't have cars. Teachers at the centre also relied on its central location to utilise nearby facilities such as the fire station for visits, and Lawrie Hall Park.
The Northland Chamber of Commerce supported the proposal. Chamber member Vince Cocurullo spoke on behalf of chamber chief executive Tony Collins, saying the chamber would want to ensure that any conference facility included in a hotel would be larger than what was available and that the land be sold for a fair rate, and not at a cheaper price to entice developers.
If the plan is pursued, the council is likely to call for expressions of interest from hotel developers.
Independent consultants Deloitte said a 120-room hotel with conference room would cost an estimated $28 million to build, with the potential for $16.8 million to be sub-contracted to Northland firms.