Tauranga City Council is forging ahead with plans to spend $303.4m to rebuild a civic space in the CBD, with plans to potentially spend another $21m on environmental enhancements.
The decision was made in a council meeting today after weeks of consultation where the community was asked to choose between a $303.4m public funding bill for a one-stop civic precinct including a library, community hub, civic whare and the museum, with additional private sector investment expected for a hotel and convention/performing arts centre; or a $126m no-frills version consisting of just the library, community hub and civic whare.
Ratepayers will be expected to pay about $70m of the successful first option - Te Manawataki o te Papa - and another $221m is expected to come from grants and asset recycling. The $70m translates to an average $265 per ratepayer, and $705 for commercial ratepayers, by 2030.
The city's commission has long trumpeted Option 1 as its preference despite calls from critics labelling museum plans a "white elephant" that would unnecessarily soak up money with designs that were described as "pretty ugly".
Of the 628 people who responded to the council during the consultation, 450 (72 per cent) supported the preferred option compared to 128 (20 per cent) who supported the second option. Fifty people (8 per cent) chose "no option".
Another 549 submitters provided feedback without choosing an option. This included 419 in support of a Tauranga Ratepayers' Alliance submission rejecting both options for redevelopment.
Feedback themes included that the city centre needed to be revitalised; a need to get on and do it, a lack of trust in the council to deliver, concerns at security of funding, and that money could be better spent on other things.
In the meeting, Commission chairwoman Anne Tolley said the submissions, including that of a 12-year-old demanding a place where he could learn local history, showed "we are actually making a difference".
Willis Bond director Wayne Silver warned the council of an escalation cost of $32m, driven by inflation and building costs, which would be absorbed by the $303.4m bill.
Silver also said parts of the project would need a 12-month settlement period because of the type of land.
"There is a risk of liquefaction in some areas; the edge of the museum, the civic whare and the exhibition centre have quite unstable land. That's not surprising and will likely require piling."
Silver recommended building the library first, as originally planned, then building the museum second instead of the exhibition space because of the land issues.
What the buildings will look like are yet to be finalised. The council is expected to decide the buildings' facades in time to allow for a resource consent application from as early as October.
Silver listed several "enhancements" that would cost an additional $21m, including solar panelling, greywater recycling and using timber to help offset carbon emissions and create six Green Star buildings.
But Tolley said the enhancements were aspirational and not what the council had consulted on.
"We've said if there are cost escalations, if significant, we have to come back to the public. Before we have that conversation there may be other ways," Tolley said.
"We are $21m short somewhere. We need to have some hard conversations about how we achieve that, if we want these enhancements."
Tolley then moved to go ahead with the $303.4m option, which was seconded by commissioner Bill Wasley.
"I think we can feel the weight of history on our shoulders, we have the opportunity to bring all that to life. Particularly for Stephen [Selwood] and I coming into the city when we were first appointed and seeing what had actually happened to the city was pretty soul-destroying.
"Here we have an opportunity to make a decision that will give life to all that was hoped for and dreamed of by thousands of people who have made and call Tauranga home."
Wasley said the CBD was a heck of a lot more than just retail and its future included a justice precinct and university campus. The project would also help to unlock the city's waterfront, which Tauranga had for too long turned its back on, he said.
Te Manawataki o te Papa aligned with other strategic documents such as the Urban Form and Transport Initiative, the Te Papa Spatial Plan, City Centre Spatial Framework, City Centre Strategy and the Marine Facilities Strategy.
Commissioner Shadrach Rolleston said the message of "do it once, do it properly" came through clearly through consultation and Tauranga had a history of "do it once, do it again, and do it again".
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make some building decisions to enhance and move this city forward."
Commissioner Stephen Selwood said the project was a significant opportunity to provide economic, social, environmental and cultural dividends. The challenge now was to consider investing extra money for enhancements that could help prolong the buildings' lifespan.
He also spoke of finding alternative funding streams for the $21m enhancements so ratepayers wouldn't foot the bill.
"If we make the right sustainable decisions now, we can save on that [extra future spending]."
Selwood said he believed the option was "going to make a difference".
"It's the right thing to do for this city."