A new marine research and education facility planned for Tauranga could be "worth tens of millions of dollars to the region's economy", an economic development expert says.
Yesterday a council committee gave the University of Waikato a green light to proceed with planning for multimillion-dollar facility.
Nigel Tutt, chief executive of Priority One, urged the council to support the project, saying it would bring a huge economic boost.
"Supporting this is the single largest act you could do for economic development in the region."
But Tauranga's mayor - and some of the facility's future neighbours - were unhappy with the chosen location.
The economic development and investment committee agreed in principle to lease the university a 5600sq m park next to the Tauranga Sport Fishing Club at the northern end of Sulphur Point.
The decision was conditional on a public consultation process, and lease terms being mutually agreed.
The committee heard the facility would be a hub of science, research, technology, innovation and public engagement that would attract international researchers as well as tourists and locals.
Mayor Greg Brownless voted against the proposed site, saying he would support a plan to build the facility at the southern end of Sulphur Point but not the northern.
He went in to bat for the clubs that have used the northern end for decades, saying the concerns they had raised about parking, traffic congestion and the loss of green space used for events were valid.
The sport fishing club, Marina Society, Tauranga Yacht and Powerboat Club and Charthouse Restuarant all raised concerns.
Deputy mayor Kelvin Clout said he was confident the university could work through those issues with the clubs.
He said the project "ticks so many boxes" - bringing an economic boost, new jobs, international researchers and enhancing the harbour and coastline.
"A small act from TCC will unlock a huge amount of potential. To me, this is a green light."
University senior deputy vice-chancellor Professor Alistair Jones said the committee's decision would allow the university to start talking to potential funders.
Early architectural plans were for a 2200sq m building that would include an aquarium display separating the public areas of the facility from those to be used for research and teaching.
Jones said the new facility would eventually replace the university's coastal marine field station on Cross Rd at Sulphur Point.
It would probably take two or three years to complete the new facility, he said.
The decision will go before the full council tomorrow.