Money is being pumped into the development of new community spaces in the city as "tremendous" population growth puts a strain on existing facilities.

Both Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty council are putting plans in place to expand, build or refurbish spaces in a bid to fill the need for additional community spaces in the city.

Last week the Western Bay of Plenty council passed a resolution to approve the negotiation and purchase of the old Omokoroa Sports Pavilion building from the Sports Society for $1.

A new multimillion-dollar building was currently in the process of being built at the site and the society needed the old building gone.

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Increased pressure to meet the growing demand for additional community spaces meant the new building could be refurbished for community purposes.

The new Omokoroa Sports Pavilion building is still being built but the Sports Society will sell the old building to the Western Bay of Plenty Council. Photo / File
The new Omokoroa Sports Pavilion building is still being built but the Sports Society will sell the old building to the Western Bay of Plenty Council. Photo / File

Tauranga City Council was feeling the same pressure after a 60 per cent increase in demand for new community halls and spaces.

An expansion project in Merivale and a possible new community space for the ever-growing Pāpāmoa East were in the pipeline, but this would only scratch the surface of the city's needs.

Former Ōmokoroa Community Board chairman Murray Grainger said there was a "lack of community spaces" in the region and if the Sports Pavilion building was to be snapped up, it could be a "great opportunity".

The community was "growing at a tremendous rate" and many of the community spaces were booked out for months to come, he said.

He said they were rallying for a space for the community's youth as there was nothing for them at this time.

"They aren't able to drive into town and what not ... they need something out here."

Western Bay of Plenty District Council's strategic property manager Blaise Williams said if the purchase went ahead as planned, the building would be refurbished to enable it to be used by the community.

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"The purchase could go some way to solve the shortage of community space on the peninsula," Williams said.

Former Ōmokoroa Community Board chairman Murray Grainger said there was a
Former Ōmokoroa Community Board chairman Murray Grainger said there was a "lack of community spaces" in the region. Photo / File

General manager of community services Gareth Wallis said community groups in both Merivale and Pāpāmoa had approached the council for expansion opportunities.

Tauranga City Council observed that growth in demand for community halls and centres increased by about 60 per cent between 2013 and 2018.

Merivale was a planned expansion of their existing community facility and the council was providing a grant to support the new build, he said.

Merivale Community Centre programme administrator Emily Carrol said the demand on their centre had "more than doubled" post-Covid.

"There is real, real need here in Tauranga right now."

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Staff were currently working out of a refurbished home but had about 50 children attending their after school drop-off clinics alone.

She said the refurbishment would allow them to expand their services to welcome Plunket and social workers in for clinics plus provide additional courses, programmes and workshops.

Merivale Community Centre was getting an expansion to meet the increased need. Photo / File
Merivale Community Centre was getting an expansion to meet the increased need. Photo / File

Meanwhile, no decision had been made regarding the model for a community centre in Pāpāmoa East but they accepted this would be needed in about five years due to growth, he said.

However, Pāpāmoa Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Philip Brown said a number of people in the community were pushing for a location now to set up support services in the area.

As the suburb continually expanded and Covid-19 took hold, some residents suffered from loneliness or were stuck in unstable financial situations, he said.

A place for them to be able to go without having to make the long trip into Tauranga would be extremely beneficial, he said.

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Tauranga City Council was still developing new community facilities like libraries, aquatic centres and indoor courts due to a needs assessment done last year.