Thirty-five boat refit businesses are vying to secure a handful of spots in Tauranga's $10 million Marine Precinct.
Interest has come in from all over New Zealand for the project to resurrect an industry crippled by closure of the 600-tonne slipway seven years ago.
The city's ailing boat refit and maintenance industry was poised to get a huge confidence boost, helped by the multimillion-dollar purchase of New Zealand's biggest vessel hoist.
Tauranga city councillors were yesterday updated on progress with the precinct, including how 35 companies had registered their interest in buying or leasing the eight lots in stage one.
Project director Phil Wardale told the Bay of Plenty Times that 25 companies were from Tauranga, with the rest based elsewhere in New Zealand. They could end up with more lots if businesses sought smaller lots than the indicated sizes. "It is a bit of a jigsaw."
The vessel hoist, with three times the capacity of anything else in the country, will pluck boats weighing up to 300 tonnes out of the harbour and carry them to work sheds.
Its unrivalled capacity means it can handle super yachts, large fishing boats, tugs and even Auckland's Fullers ferries.
The 3.5ha precinct was poised to become the saviour of Tauranga's marine servicing industry which has struggled since the closure of the slipway coincided with the Global Financial Crisis.
Stage one of the precinct between the Harbour Bridge and Sanford's in Cross Rd was expected to pump more than $45 million into the region's economy and employ about 195 people.
Mayor Stuart Crosby said the council's role was to facilitate development of the precinct and would exit the project once it was completed. The council owned the land which it acquired as part of the construction of the second Harbour Bridge.
The council has budgeted to spend $10 million on the vessel hoist, also called a boat travel lift, and to create the hard stand and sea wall. It had already recovered part of the money from selling the Allied Concrete site across the road and would raise the rest from selling or leasing the lots. Half of the money was a grant from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's infrastructure fund.
Mr Crosby said it was vital Tauranga retained its marine refit, maintenance and boat-building industries. "We are a city built around the harbour."
The regional council's grant came with specific job opportunity. "It is ultimately about skilled jobs and keeping that capacity here."
The council's general manager for organisational services, Jaine Lovell-Gadd, said they were targeting work boats rather than leisure craft for the marine precinct, although they could accommodate super yachts. They had shortlisted four suppliers of 300-tonne vessel hoists and the precinct was expected to open for business by November next year.