A new supermarket has been included in plans for a $75 million commercial and residential hub in Ōmokoroa ahead of a hearing for the project that will be held next week.
And experts predict the peninsula's population could overtake Katikati and Te Puke as the number of building consents sought for the area continue to climb.
Jace Investments Limited is seeking resource consent for an Ōmokoroa Town Centre. The application, which includes architectural plans and an economic report, will be heard at an Independent Commissioner Hearing at Western Bay of Plenty District Council on Monday.
The land is located at 404 Omokoroa Rd and includes about 5.3ha of commercial-zoned land - the last undeveloped site in the main Ōmokoroa commercial zone. Another 2.5ha of land has been zoned for future urban use.
In the resource consent application, council senior governance adviser Barbara Clarke said the buildings were generally compliant but there were some protrusions through the maximum height parameters. Most buildings were expected to be two-storey but some would be a single storey or three-storey.
Provision had also been made for a supermarket as a likely key anchor tenant for the town centre.
"The proposal will have positive and economic effects for Ōmokoroa and the immediate rural catchment."
Ōmokoroa had 1918 existing or consented dwellings by June 2019. SmartGrowth projections show this was expected to increase by 1120 (or 71 per cent) over the following decade.
In the application's economic report, RCG associate director John Polkinghorne referred to SmartGrowth estimates that suggested Ōmokoroa could overtake Katikati in population within the next decade. In the longer term, Ōmokoroa was also expected to overtake Te Puke for total population but the timeframe for this was uncertain.
ŌOmokoroa's total capacity, estimated at 4326 dwellings, was consistent with a population of up to 12,000, the report said.
Polkinghorne said in the report that providing a town centre would "enable people living in the peninsula or nearby to fulfil more of their shopping and convenience needs locally, improving their economic and social wellbeing".
"It will also provide employment opportunities, and reduce retail 'leakage' to Tauranga. Development of the town centre will result in significant economic effects."
While Ōmokoroa's Tralee St retail centre was expected to bear the brunt of trade competition, the impact to retailers in Katikati and Bethlehem was expected to be minimal.
Of 76 submissions lodged in response to the application, 46 supported the plans compared to 17 opposing them. Others were neutral, not specified or conditional.
In her submission, Jessica Guy-Patterson said the project would provide a "valuable asset to the region" by reducing the number of vehicles travelling to Tauranga, supporting family lifestyle and bringing the community together.
It was "well thought-out land use and [of a ] maximum benefit to the community."
Omokoroa Residents and Ratepayers Association also supported the proposal, stating in its submission the town centre would provide a "great opportunity" to relocate the council's headquarters to the proposed civic centre, as Ōmokoroa was becoming the single largest population in the district.
However, the association noted plans "should be sympathetic" to Ōmokoroa's community and history. The group's support was subject to community inclusion and input during the design process to achieve the "desired character".
Bay of Plenty Regional Council opposed, stating in its submission the application was "premature" in relation to the current structure planning process being carried out by Western Bay council and there was no provision for public transport via bus access or bus stops.
Woolworths New Zealand, which owns FreshChoice in Tralee St, also submitted against the plans, saying the proposal did not promote sustainable management of resources, particularly in light of the Resource Management Act.
The submission stated Woolworths "highly disagree" with the application's note that if FreshChoice on Tralee St were to close as a result of the development, it was not considered an adverse effect.
"Adverse effects have not been quantified and closure would undermine function of [the town centre], resulting in adverse economic effects on existing activities within the centre and potential loss of jobs."
Other concerns raised through the submissions was a lack of consultation with residents, that the design was "imposing and overbearing" and that it planned access through Kaimai Views, which was not considered suitable.
The council put these concerns to Jace Investments Limited in a Request for Further Information and these are expected to be discussed at Monday's meeting.
Western Bay mayor Garry Webber said independent commissioners were called in to ensure there was a degree of separation between the council and "to ensure the council can't or won't be seen as meddling around the corners".
"This is a pretty significant development. This would be the largest town centre."
Webber said Ōmokoroa was expected to have a population of 12,000 in coming years and such a community needed appropriate facilities, which the town centre would offer. He hoped an intermediate and secondary school could be among the next developments established for Ōmokoroa.
"I'm excited with the development of the whole Ōmokoroa peninsula because it's a growing sub-region, Tauranga City and Western Bay, we need this area developed. I'm really excited that our council seems to be able to remove roadblocks as quickly as we can to make that happen."
Jace Investment business manager Hayley Larman said that if the resource consent was granted, there would be potential to start clearing the site later this year.
Larman said the group believed in "locals building for locals" and rather than outsourcing design and planning internationally. The group also looked forward to creating local jobs and "much-needed community shopping, social, civic and business amenities".
"Our vision is to provide a place that people can be proud of. For Jace Group, it is not only important to get the logistics, look and feel right but grow the long-term legacy. For us, that means helping to foster and support livelihoods, enhance the local lifestyles and create opportunities for the community to connect."
In response to concerns raised in the submissions, Larman said that while the company had undertaken constructive amendments during the request for information phase, "we have also had overwhelming support for the project".
"We continue to communicate and remain transparent throughout the process."