The Tauranga Business Chamber is calling for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to look at how it uses its dividends from the Port of Tauranga.
The chamber made a submission at the regional council hearings on statements of proposals on Tuesday.
Chamber events and sponsorship manager Anne Pankhurst told the council there was a perception in the community of a "simmering discontent" with the Port of Tauranga.
"Whilst we are hugely supportive and completely agree with the port and its important role to the region, there is a simmering discontent that can be applied to its social licence," said Pankhurst.
"There has been talk and there is always political caution around this, but the business community is starting to say remove the subsidy or some of the subsidy and invest in the region.
"It [the port] now has to recognise that it consumes a lot of our roads, it consumes a lot of our space. It is in growth mode, which we 100 per cent want to support... but it needs to bring the community with it.
"What we're starting to hear is the community is not feeling supported by the port.
"[There is] a growing discontent that they [the port] are actually like Pac-Man consuming our region and our environment and not necessarily giving back to those things."
The chamber asked the regional council to consider investing some of the dividends into the community.
"That can be through larger investments, such as the Domain and other particular amenity that will benefit all of the community," said Pankhurst.
She was referring to the Wharepai Domain being identified as a preferred location for a multi-use stadium for Tauranga.
The council is the majority shareholder in the Port of Tauranga and the dividend paid to council from the port was $33 million in the 2020/21 financial year.
The shares are held by Quayside, the regional council's investment arm. Bay of Plenty Regional Council currently uses the dividends to subsidise rates.
For the 2022/23 financial year the forecast subsidy will be around $400 for every ratepaying property.
After the hearings, regional council chairman Doug Leeder told Local Democracy Reporting that the council is trying to build an annuity for ratepayers.
"The strategy is to build up an annuity that will be there for future generations of Bay of Plenty residents and communities," he said.
"In order to do that, you've got to give the likes of Quayside the ability to grow.
"We've got to get a balance between letting Quayside grow so we can build an annuity and maintaining a meaningful return to the ratepayers."
Leeder said how the annuity was dispersed would be up to the future council.
In response to the chamber's submission, Port of Tauranga chief executive Leonard Sampson said the port was surprised by the comments.
"There's no doubt that the port is the key driver of the economies of the Tauranga and wider Bay of Plenty, providing hundreds of thousands of jobs and business opportunities for residents.
"Through dividends to Quayside Holdings, the port has returned more than $724 million to ratepayers in the past 10 years.
"In addition, Quayside has used its shareholding in Port of Tauranga to establish a $200 million infrastructure fund to help pay for regional assets and infrastructure."
Sampson said the port is one of the city's largest ratepayers and has paid $337 million in corporate tax in the past decade.
"Port of Tauranga does not take its social licence for granted. We have invested heavily in air and stormwater quality, as well as carbon emission reduction."
Together with iwi, the port established the Nga Matarae Charitable Trust that is funded through an annual grant from the port, Sampson said.
The trust offers scholarships to tertiary students, as well as sponsorship of projects to improve harbour health, such as biosecurity research, he said.
"We have also partnered with dozens of community organisations to sponsor events and local infrastructure, including the Port of Tauranga National Jazz Festival to be held in June.
"The Port is also one of the biggest benefactors of the Tauranga Community Foodbank."
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