The city's controversial iSite project could get a significant boost if an iwi-backed funding proposal is given the green light.

The tourism project has progressed slowly and has been mired in controversy and funding issues.

Tauranga City Council has already agreed to contribute $4 million to build a visitor information centre on Salisbury Ave.

That amount is enough to build a fit-for-purpose centre, but the council has been seeking another $1.2 million 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 funding.

In October the council agreed to make a second application to the Provincial Growth Fund for the project, which the council has taken to calling the Cruise Gateway and Welcome Hub.

News this week that Ngāi Te Rangi has offered to discuss contributing $4 million towards the project opens up a range of possibilities and could save ratepayers a lot of money.

Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley won't be drawn on how the investment could benefit the iwi, but you could guess the site could provide a prime opportunity to offer a cultural experience to the thousands of cruise ship visitors that arrive each season.

As Stanley notes: "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's right.

If Tauranga can encourage more visitors to spend more time in the Western Bay rather than departing for Hobbiton or Rotorua, it will provide a significant boost for the local economy.

The best way to achieve that is for local bodies and key players to work together - and that appears to be happening here.

Hopefully, an agreement can be reached so the Bay can make the most of the cruise ship season and spread the benefits as widely as possible.