''Disappointing'' is how University of Waikato representatives describe the setback to a world-class marine research centre that could be a ''job creation machine'' for the Bay of Plenty.
The $50 million dollar "shovel ready" project, earmarked to be built on a council reserve at Sulphur Point, was rejected by Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage last month but those who support the proposal have vowed to fight on.
Sage told the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday she has since been advised that Ngāti Pukenga and Ngāti Tamarawaho have withdrawn their opposition.
''I have sought further advice and information from the Department of Conservation and cannot comment further at this time.''
Those involved have revealed there is no ''B plan'' on alternative sites following eight years of intensive investigations and the opportunity could ''be potentially lost''.
In her original announcement, Sage said the key consideration was the value of the reserve rather than the merits of its intended use for the university facility.
But University of Waikato vice-chancellor Professor Neil Quigley rebuffed those claims and said ''the significant benefits to the region were overwhelming compared to the relatively modest cost of giving up that amount of reserve land''.
''It's easy to focus on... you know the access issues and this and that but everyone else who has looked at it broadly has concluded that the benefits are so big that those costs are not material.''
Now the university would resubmit as ''we certainly don't think the decision we have got at the moment is the last word''.
Quigley said the construction phase alone would equate to about 250 jobs but there was much more at stake as the university's marine field station site in Tauranga was already ''beyond capacity'' and it was turning down work.
The field station focuses on marine-based research for pharmaceutical and agrichemical innovation.
Professor Chris Battershill said it had 106 PhD and masters and other students and it was involved with significant Provincial Growth Fund aquaculture programmes.
Senior deputy vice-chancellor Professor Alister Jones said it had always envisioned the facility would be of national significance which the public could also visit.
The university had made major contributions to climate change research, environmental protection and restoration alongside education opportunities - which would only increase with the marine research facility, he said.
The marine research facility was important for Tauranga Moana from both an environmental perspective, as well as an economic one, Priority One chief financial officer Greg Simmonds said.
''A facility of this kind would be unique in New Zealand in its ability to help us adapt to climate change and focus on how we protect our harbour, estuaries and coastal marine environment from multiple competing uses. Having this level of science and research carried out in this city will be hugely valuable to our community.''
The global economy is becoming more dependent on marine sources of food and nutrition, hence the marine bio-economy is growing rapidly, he said.
''We believe the marine research facility offers substantial opportunity for future commercialisation by taking the research and science and generating new businesses.''
MP for Tauranga Simon Bridges said it would be ''a groundbreaking international quality centre''.
''It's a sad irony that a Green minister has declined it because a big part of its focus would have been on conservation the environment and climate change.''
Bridges said Sage had agreed to meet with him again and he would try and persuade her to change her mind ''but it could be hard work''.
Sage told the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday that when she made her initial decision ''there was iwi opposition to the revocation of public reserve status over part of the Tauranga Marine Park Reserve. That was a factor in my decision.''
A Tauranga City Council spokesman said no decision had been made to resubmit its application.