Resource consent for a $250 million four-star, 130-room hotel and entertainment centre to be built on a prime waterfront section in Whangārei is expected to be lodged in the next few weeks.
Plans for the mammoth project on Riverside Dr, spearheaded by Northland Development Corporation (NDC), are on track after completion of $2m worth of feasibility work that incorporated a huge amount of community consultation, including feedback from local iwi.
The hotel, an events centre, and apartments to be built on 12,460sq m of waterfront land are expected to provide more than 200 jobs during construction and about 140-160 when opened.
First up would be the construction of the events centre at a cost of $70m and NDC hopes to attract about 66 per cent or just over $46m of it from the Government, while $21m would be raised locally, and the remaining through community fundraising.
The development could be part of the Government's shovel-ready projects and if funding from the Provincial Growth Fund comes through, construction will start in the next 12 months.
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NDC spokesmen Barry Trass and Ben Tomason said a tonne of work has gone into the feasibility work over the past 18 months and the events centre would be the catalyst for the hotel.
"We haven't wavered at all from our plan. Obviously through the process, we've tweaked it and improved it considerably and that's come from a huge amount of community consultation with not only neighbours but the whole community, particularly iwi and some of the designs that are incorporated comes from our consultation with local iwi."
The development, to be owned by a community trust, is named Oruku Landing after a significant pā site above the hill which used to be a sentry point for visitors who would come up the harbour in their waka, and walk up the hill to the pā site where they'd be greeted into Whangarei.
Whangārei hapu Ngāti Kahu o Torongare and Te Parawhau suggested the name.
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Employing locals before, during and post-construction was a non-negotiable, Trass said.
"It's all about providing jobs. There will be over 200 people involved in building it. From day one, we've got 30-40 consultants working on it so it's employing people right from day one, even during Covid."
Tomason said hopefully the community would be in a post-Covid world once the hotel and events centre were built in two to three years, putting Whangārei in a strong position to attract quality events.
He said NDC was not in competition with the Hihiaua Cultural Centre which is proposing an 850-seat theatre and conference centre alongside the Hatea River and already had resource consent for it.
"We've always supported that but it's always touted to us as being a cultural centre. What we are planning is a multi-purpose events centre."
From research his team has done, Tomason said a multi-purpose facility was a lot more efficient, user friendly, and kept the cost and burden on ratepayers down.
"In a post-Covid world where people are really sensitive about any cost to ratepayers, this is a really good way to go because you get the best of both. You get all the ability to stage community events but you also have that big, heavy-hitting commercial revenue that offsets it."
Tomason said the NDC development would attract a lot of out-of-town visitors and
eventually international visitors to the hotel, with a plan to have a walk bridge across the river so people could go to the Hihiaua Peninsula and visit the Hundertwasser Art Centre.
Trass said a ferry shuttle to transport cruise ship passengers to and from the new hotel and events centre could also be used by those working at Refining New Zealand.