Tauranga can learn lessons from the development of Auckland's waterfront but getting the local community behind the vision is crucial.

Former Waterfront Auckland chief executive John Dalzell spoke to an audience of mainly council election candidates on Tuesday about how the revitalisation of a large part of Auckland's central city waterfront was achieved.

He led the council-controlled organisation to revitalise and open up the formerly private, industrial waterfront land for everyone.

''There is lots of talk, usually about a vision and how you go about things, but the theme today is how you get people engaged and how you move them on from that stage to delivering on what the vision is,'' he said.

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He speculated that Tauranga was now in a similar position to Auckland 10 years ago, with plenty of ideas, but not much more.

In Auckland, he drew on the experience of like-minded people across the globe involved in waterfronts along harbours or rivers.

''There's a tremendous body of knowledge to draw on, but the one thing I have learned over the years is that only the local people can take that knowledge, adapt it and apply it to their environment.

''The community needs to come together and be united behind a single vision. That's so fundamental. It's got to be about Tauranga, about the communities that are based here, right back to the earliest part of the history and how people over time have occupied the space.''

There is also a need to look to the future.

''What are the goals and aspirations of the community? How might they be reflected not only in the physical form, but also in the how people want to occupy the space; how people feel comfortable about being in a harbour front environment; what they want to use it for and who they invite along to share those experiences?''

Critical to any redevelopment of Tauranga's waterfront was an early decision on what to do about the railway line running along the Strand, he said.

Mount Maunganui resident Max Lewis, who had sought the views of Tauranga council and mayoral election candidates on how they would invigorate the CBD, was at the talk and said one thing was clear about how the issue should be tackled.

''From what John said, clearly it's got to be [by] an independent body from council, whether it's a council-controlled organisation or an advisory group.''

He said he felt the talk was beneficial to the elected and aspiring councillors who attended.

''I think the councillors have some new ideas on how to move forward from this point and I think it's very positive for the CBD going forward.

''Then other thing I liked [about the Auckland experience] was the community, tangata whenua and the business community all working together in the same area.''

Mr Dalzell was invited to Tauranga by mayoral candidate Max Mason.

''The purpose of inviting John to Tauranga was for the Tauranga public to get a vision of what has happened in other cities,'' Mr Mason said.