Ngāi Te Rangi has offered to discuss putting $4 million towards a new visitor information centre in Mount Maunganui.

Tauranga City Council chief executive Marty Grenfell has accepted an invitation from the Tauranga Moana iwi to talk about funding for the Salisbury Ave tourism facility.

Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley said in an open letter to Grenfell that the iwi was interested in supporting the council in building "te tomokanga" - the entranceway.

"I have spoken to the board of Ngāi Te Rangi iwi and we are interested in entering into a
discussion regarding Ngāi Te Rangi investing approximately $4m into the building of this
facility."

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He wrote the iwi had "views regarding the investment opportunity and the financial return possibilities of that particular property".

Last year Tauranga City Council committed $4m to the project, seeking - unsuccessfully, so far - an additional $1m to $1.2m from other funders.

Stanley told the Bay of Plenty Times that previous council chief executive Garry Poole suggested the iwi contribute to project.

He was initially not keen but said the board discussed the opportunity and decided it could be good for the city, and save ratepayers a lot of money.

Stanley said he saw the value in the project.

"It is an opportunity for us to think differently about the tourism market. Instead of everyone going off to Rotorua, we could be thinking about how we improve the economy here."

He would not be drawn on how the investment could benefit the iwi or on how the contribution might be structured, saying he did not want to pre-empt his discussion with Grenfell, scheduled for tomorrow.

He said the iwi had other properties and opportunities it could invest the money in if Tauranga's council and community were not interested, so this was a limited time offer.

An artist's impression of the iconic version of the visitor information centre. Image / Supplied
An artist's impression of the iconic version of the visitor information centre. Image / Supplied

According to the council's plans for the centre, which it has started calling the Cruise Gateway and Welcome Hub, the $4m will cover a fit-for-purpose facility, but another $1.2m was needed to up-spec the building to iconic status by adding a large roof.

Since mid-2017, three government funds, including the $1 billion Provincial Growth Fund, have turned down applications for the extra funding.

In October the council agreed to make a second application to the Provincial Growth Fund for the project after encouragement from Minister Shane Jones.

The application was still being worked on this week, and had not yet been submitted.

Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive officer Kristin Dunne declined to comment on the offer, saying the council-funded organisation would be a tenant of the building and was not involved in discussions around its development and investment.


Funding battle

2012 - i-Site at Mount Maunganui closes. Temporary i-Port established and tourism information centre dispensed from Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park and, later, the Mount Mainstreet office
2016 - Two design options for a new visitor information centre are priced at $4m and $5m respectively. Funding of $4m added to draft annual plan for 2017-18
2017 - Council cuts funding to $2.5m, then restores it to $4m weeks later
2018 - Three Crown funds turn down applications for $1m-1.2m additional funding but council agrees to reapply to Provincial Growth Fund after encouragement from Minister