Tourism and business leaders have hit out at two Northland councils for not providing enough funding for a planned $93 million conference and events centre that was part of the $220m Oruku development in Whangārei.
Last week, the Northern Advocate reported that the planned hotel and conference centre is in danger of not getting off the ground after Whangārei District Council (WDC) withdrew its proposed funding for the conference centre from its Long Term Plan.
Despite this, the people behind the Oruku Landing Development - planned on Riverside Dr - say while disappointed at the council's decision, they will continue to keep the development going. And they've received support from the business and tourism sectors.
Last year, the Government announced it was putting $60m into the planned $93m conference and events centre that was part of the $220m Oruku development. The $60m was from the Covid Response and Recovery Fund.
But for the plan to proceed, it needed roughly another $30m from ratepayers, with WDC asked to front up with $17.6m to pay for infrastructure such as roading, stormwater and wastewater networks, and Northland Regional Council (NRC) was asked for $14m to help fit it out.
But WDC chief executive Rob Forlong said the Oruku Landing Development would not be included in the council's 2021-31 Long Term Plan, although future options could be considered.
"Our LTP consultation proposed that we include $23m towards Oruku Landing in our 10-year plan subject to a number of conditions being met. These included a commitment of $14m from the Northland Regional Council (NRC), and a satisfactory outcome of due diligence investigations.
"Recently, two things happened. The NRC approved only $6m to the project in its LTP, and we found matters arising during our due diligence process that would require further investigation and negotiation. The effect of these was that the conditions our council required have not been met.''
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Northland tourism leader Jeroen Jongejans said it was crazy for the council not to have supported the development with ratepayer funds as the region may never get another opportunity of $60m from central government for such a project.
''We've never had $60m from Government just like that and we may never get it again.
"Our domestic tourism market has shown that there is a big domestic market for Northland, particularly from Auckland, and we need top-class developments like this,'' Jongejans said.
''People want to come up here and a large conference centre would have attracted many conferences and events to the city that we just can't get at the moment. We would look like total idiots not to take up that [$60m in Government funding]''
He said while the borders were closed to international visitors, that would not last forever and Northland needed to make sure it had adequate tourism infrastructure in place for when foreign visitors returned en masse.
NorthChamber president Tim Robinson said both councils should have given the development what was needed to proceed as the conference would provide much-needed work and attract people to the city.
''This is a once-in-a-lifetime $60m opportunity from central government and our councils are turning it down,'' he said.
''We won't get another opportunity like this and I'd urge the councils to revisit their decisions. I hope they can work together to find a way forward to make this great opportunity happen.''