Tauranga CBD has a lot of potential but at the moment it's not living up to it.

The waterfront is beautiful and I love dining at the restaurants along The Strand and looking out across the harbour.

Moving back further, Devonport Rd, Grey St, Elizabeth St and Willow St leave plenty to be desired.

Civic Amenities Group chairman Paul Adams this week called the CBD "a disgrace".


"It looks and performs like an outdated village," Mr Adams said.

He said it was "lacking the heart and soul required to attract people into the city to enjoy the vibrancy that the fifth-largest city in New Zealand deserves".

I agree.

For a small town, it's fine.

It reminds me of Whangamata or Paihia. But Tauranga is no longer a small town.

As Mr Adams pointed out, it's the fifth largest city in New Zealand, yet it lags a long way behind Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The buildings are old and dull and there is very little in the way of entertainment.

Most of the shops there can also be found at Bayfair, which is far more convenient for shopping.

It's the entertainment and cultural offerings that are missing and which will draw more people back to the city.

They might not come to primarily shop or eat but many will do so while they are there.

The CBD needs to offer something you can't get anywhere else.

I'll go into the CBD to go to the library or to get something from one of the boutique shops that you can't find anywhere else, but otherwise I usually prefer the malls.

The council is heading in the right direction by building the new university campus in the central city.

That will be a huge plus for all the retailers and businesses in the area.

It will mean many more people in the city, spending money on a daily basis.

But that's not enough.

Mr Adams and the Civic Amenities Group are looking into options for a museum in the city and a stadium at Tauranga Domain.

Both of those would draw crowds - not just locals but those from out of town as well.

Tourists, school classes, and locals would visit a museum on a daily basis and many would stop for a coffee, food and a spot of window shopping at the same time.

I realise these things cost money and will most likely be at least partially funded by rates but it is the only way to revitalise the city.

It may not be popular at the time and it may cost councillors votes but we need to bite the bullet and spend the money soon.

Mayor Stuart Crosby pointed out the importance of the decision councillors will have to make later this year regarding the civic centre.

With the current council building plagued by toxic black mould the elected members will have to decide what the new civic centre will look like and whether it might include a museum and public spaces.

Done well, it could become the heart of the city much like Auckland's Aotea Square or Christchurch's Cathedral Square.

I urge the councillors to look ahead and make a decision that will benefit the city in the future rather than building something ordinary in an attempt to keep rates down and appease what Mr Adams calls "the vocal minority".

As ratepayers, we need to support the council in making our city world-class.

Tauranga's growth is showing no sign of slowing and we need to do all we can to attract and retain skilled, responsible residents who will add value to the region.

We will soon have the facilities to draw many more young people here to study but we need to keep them in the region when they finish rather than watch them all head off to the big smoke.

Our councillors do need to be wise in how they spend our money and they will always have to prioritise but I urge them to take a more long-term view.

A project done well now will save money in the long term. It will last decades and future councils will not feel the need to spend more money to revamp it.

Spend the money, do it once and do it well.