It's not too late for Tauranga to avoid becoming a "mini-Auckland" but the window of opportunity is closing fast.

That's what Robert Brodnax, the man leading the development of a refreshed 50-year transport plan for the Western Bay sub-region, told a Smartgrowth meeting yesterday.

Smartgrowth - a 15-year-old collaboration of the three local councils and tangata whenua - heard updates on transport and housing projects including Brodnax' Urban Form and Transport Initiative and a multimillion dollar upgrade of the region's transport models.

Asked by Tauranga Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout if it was "too late" for Tauranga to avoid the "mini-Auckland" curse, Brodnax said: "Now is our chance".

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"We are building the ATAP [Auckland Transport Alignment Project] programme that Auckland built 20 years too late."

He said the initiative was aiming to produce the local equivalent of ATAP and the more recent Let's Get Welly Moving transport programme - both of which have Government backing and billions in funding - over the next nine months.

While there were a few gaps to fill, most of the data and planning required for the initiative's work already existed, he said, and the biggest hurdle was crafting an "investment story" that would convince the Government to put funding into this region over others.

The plan also needed to be nimble and able to adjust to changes in Government priorities or global recessions.

Western Bay of Plenty Mayor Garry Webber. File photo
Western Bay of Plenty Mayor Garry Webber. File photo

The meeting also included rallying cries from elected officials for swift action and innovative thinking, some internal finger-pointing, and a lot of talk about how to tell a transport "story" that will convince the Government to loosen up its purse strings.

Western Bay Mayor Garry Webber had a stack of a half dozen or so weighty transport documents in front of him.

"This is all of the navel-gazing we have done since 2004," he said.

"Some people have been in this room for 15 years. We need take a long, hard look at ourselves.

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"This our last shot for us to work collectively... We cant stuff around any longer."

Bay of Plenty Regional councillor Paula Thompson said the Smartgrowth partners' inability to agree how to fund a transport model upgrade was a "damning indictment" of the governing body.

"How can we have not held to account ourselves and our partners?"

"If we cant all commit then bring on a unitary council ASAP. It's the only way to get progress."

A still from the new hybrid transport model. Image / supplied
A still from the new hybrid transport model. Image / supplied

Million-dollar models

A new transport model that can account for factors as diverse as parking costs, bus fares and cyclist movements is expected to be ready to use next month.

Tauranga City Council's principal transport adviser Bruce Robinson gave an update to Smartgrowth on a multi-million dollar ongoing project to modernise the region's transport models.

He said a new "hybrid" model could test more detailed scenarios than the existing model, which took a more "macro" view of the network, and had also been updated.

Robinson said work to improve the models - and the data that fed them - would continue over the next 10 years, cost around $10m and inform more than $2b worth of new transport plans.

An example of the level of detail a new transport model, set to launch next month, for the Western Bay of Plenty will be able to produce.

Christine Jones, manager of strategy and growth at Tauranga City Council, said the modelling update was a joint effort between the three local councils and the NZ Transport Agency that started three years ago.

Initially, it was solely funded by the Tauranga council with a $2.5m commitment in 2016 as the partners could not agree on how to split the costs.

Retrospective agreements have since been struck with the other councils and on Tuesday the NZTA also agreed to provide funding for the next two financial years.

Jones told the Bay of Plenty Times after the meeting the split would be 68.2 per cent NZTA, 17.2 per cent Tauranga City Council, 9.8 per cent Western Bay of Plenty District Council and 4.9 per cent Bay of Plenty Regional Council.