Tauranga is missing eight major facilities and attractions that most people expect in any New Zealand city, a councillor says.
And he has done a comparative survey of other cities around the country to prove it.
Tauranga City councillor Max Mason said he did the survey to challenge all candidates in the upcoming byelection "to articulate their plans to develop badly-needed facilities in the city".
"The new councillor will be immediately thrown into voting on Long Term Plan (LTP) decisions that will have impacts decades into the future," he said.
The eight facilities and attractions that Mason looked at were:
• A large performing arts/conference centre
• An international hotel
• A completed quality waterfront/river feature
• A 50m swimming pool
• A museum
• A thriving city centre
• A quality outdoor sports/events stadium
• A selection of indoor/wet weather tourism attractions
Mason compared Tauranga with Hamilton, Napier-Hastings, Dunedin, Palmerston North, Rotorua, Whangarei and New Plymouth.
He said he was shocked at the results.
"We don't have any of the eight."
Mason said while issues such as transport congestion were top of mind, candidates should also be aware of the gaps in Tauranga sporting, arts and tourism facilities.
He said his survey found most of the other cities had the eight facilities and attractions.
"Voters need to know which candidates are content to settle for the status quo, and which have a more aspirational view of the city's future."
He said many facilities in other cities had been co-funded in partnership arrangements and it would be great to see more "whole-of-community funding mechanisms" in Tauranga.
Mason said the community lost an opportunity to inject millions of dollars of extra funding towards facilities when the TECT proposal was canned.
"But there's no point in dwelling on might-have-beens."
He said he did not want his survey to descend into a debate about rates and that future facilities would only happen when private sector, iwi, the regional council, philanthropists, charitable funders, and others all co-operate.
"One of the main advantages of including private sector partners is that they can run public facilities much more cost effectively than council, thus saving rates. You just have to look at the impact of a commercially experienced board on Bay Venues, which has saved millions in rates."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stan Gregec said Mason was right and Tauranga had been really slow to invest in amenities and facilities that other cities took for granted.
"We can hardly call ourselves an internationally competitive city, or even aspire to that status, without investing in these kinds of attractions."
Gregec said the city council could not be expected to pay for it all from rates.
"We're already facing being choked by rates this year from the relatively modest increases of spending the council is proposing – very little of which is earmarked for these kinds of nice-to-haves."
He said the city had to get more creative and there had to be more opportunity for public-private partnerships and other funding vehicles.
"Perhaps there's a city benefactor out there somewhere who could step forward?
"I'm not going to hold my breath to see things like a performing arts centre built in Tauranga in the next 10 years – as desirable as they might be."
Nigel Tutt, chief executive of Western Bay's economic development agency Priority One, said Tauranga obviously had many good points also.
"That said – we believe that the city is undergoing a generational change, provision of these facilities will be very important for us to continue to be attractive to skilled and talented people."
Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne said the city and region were very rich in natural attractions – beaches, walks, and coastal offerings such as fishing, surfing and paddleboarding.
"However, for some markets this isn't sufficient. During inclement weather there are few wet weather options for visitors and we know there are particular markets which require an international hotel," she said.
Dunne said Tauranga lacked the infrastructure to support tourism growth and the visitor experience.
She said long-term planning and embracing a move to destination management was needed – a collective approach to developing the tourism industry in a sustainable way.
"This includes ensuring we have robust data and insights from those people who do visit the region ..."