A $75 million privately funded new town centre at Omokoroa has been met with mixed reactions from some residents concerned about infrastructure, huge growth, traffic and the township losing its quaint beachside ''charm''.
The project which has been submitted to the Western Bay of Plenty District Council for resource consent is the brainchild of local business JACE Investments Limited.
It will be considered by the council as part of its Omokoroa Structure Plan for the long-term development of land between the peninsula's railway line and State Highway 2.
The proposal features a staged development application for a privately funded $75m Omokoroa town centre of a multipurpose retail, commercial and social community hub including shops, cafes, offices and a civic centre along with a possible cinema and multiple green spaces that could accommodate the likes of a farmers' market.
Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber said Omokoroa was "fully reticulated" but said infrastructure and water were factors that needed to comply with the application.
Webber said the development was within the council's current zoning and like all applications, it would be given due consideration.
"Now it is under a legal process I can't comment one way or the other, so we will just have to wait and see what the outcome of the process is."
Omokoroa's Janine Birch thought the town centre development was something the town had to have but said the traffic would be a negative.
"We are growing hugely and quickly."
She said this type of development was something that had been talked about for a number of years and it was time to get on with it.
"The population is growing rapidly. It would increase the amount of traffic which is a bit of a negative but if we are going to have progression we are going to have more traffic."
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Resident Rick Peers said he had mixed emotions about the scheme.
"I'm all for future development of Omokoroa and the services and amenities that it brings, but I will be sad to see the old charm of Omokoroa fade as it grows.
"I hope we can still maintain the close-knit community we have."
Omokoroa Kiwi Holiday Park owner Sharon Addison believed undoubtedly that the development would be good for business but she was hesitant to put all her support behind it.
"On this side of town, apart from the Bethlehem shopping centre, there isn't much. But there is a lack of parking, our roads and water need work and I'm more concerned about those things.
"It has to be well planned, it can't just be put up and then they realise we have run out of water. Council needs to put these things into the equation before giving them permission to build."
Fresh Choice Omokoroa owner Steve Ling said the development would be a string to Omokoroa's bow if it was successful.
"There is reasonably low unemployment rate in Omokoroa but the majority of those moving to Omokoroa are young families and they will in turn be seeking opportunities, I think it is all positive."
He hoped the development would keep the unique identity of the "beachside community" but said it would make the peninsula self sufficient and reduce the need for people to travel for various goods and services.
General manager of Tremains Bay of Plenty and Waikato, Anton Jones said any development which brought an increase in infrastructure and businesses to the area ''tends to be a good thing''.
''So having those new businesses and jobs is fantastic.''
Although Jones said he understood those that had bought in the area for retirement or a quieter life may not share the same view.
Meanwhile, Catherine McDonald thought it would be a good development for Omokoroa, and that it was great to have it at the highway end so the other side could hopefully retain its seaside atmosphere.
"We've lived here for seven years and hate going into town. If we had all those things here you would never have to leave. But we do need a high school out here."
She said she was not bothered by all the development and the growing population because they had moved to Omokoroa knowing it was going to happen.
"I think generally it's a good thing for the whole region, it takes some pressure off Tauranga and makes it easier for people out this way."
JACE Investments Limited director Craig Lemon said the vision for the town centre design, aesthetics and ambience had been considered to reflect the lifestyle, character and environment of Omokoroa.
"Extensive planning and reviews have been undertaken including architectural and urban design concepts, transport, geotechnical, economic, cultural and archaeological assessments."
The 7.9ha site includes 5.3ha already commercially zoned. The remainder is categorised as Future Urban.
Lemon said the town centre would be easily accessible for locals and surrounding rural communities due to its proximity to the proposed school and its link with a pre-existing network of walkways and cycleways.
Fully serviced by waste and stormwater infrastructure, Lemon said the proposal was less exposed to lengthy regulatory, land procurement and town planning processes of other options being considered by council.
"In a post-Covid environment, our plans are potentially shovel-ready and can help stimulate significant local economic activity and jobs," Lemon said.
Who is JACE Investments?
• The JACE Group portfolio includes horticulture companies and property developments - MPAC (Mount Pack and Cool Limited), Gro Plus, Southern Orchards Limited, APAC (Auckland Pack and Cool Limited) and Kiwi Green New Zealand Limited.
• Currently operated as an orchard, 404 Omokoroa Rd is owned by JACE Investments subsidiary company, Kiwi Green Limited.
• The company has been based in the Bay of Plenty since 2003 and annually employs more than 700 in the region.