Backers of a $16 million Māori performing arts facility say it's up to Whangārei District Council to decide whether there's room for two new theatres in the city.
The comments come after bids from two different groups each wanting to build a 850-seat theatre in Whangārei in partnership with the council.
Janet Hetaraka, Hihiaua cultural centre project coordinator, said her group was proposing an 850-seat theatre and conference centre alongside Whangārei's Hatea River. It already had resource consent for this.
A second group, Forum North Trust 2013 (FNT2013) is also wanting to build a $35 million 850-seat theatre based around redevelopment of the city's Forum North civic complex across town.
Gavin Benney, Whangārei District Council (WDC) community development committee chairman, said there was room for both developments.
Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai said a new theatre was a critical piece of infrastructure for the city.
Council theatre options researchers estimate the cost of a new theatre at $50-$60 million with annual operating costs of about $1 million.
FNT2013 made its bid to the council's community development committee on Tuesday.
Opera singer Kawiti Waetford said the group's new theatre proposal offered huge potential for Whangārei.
Proponents are wanting access to WDC's about $10 million already in place towards a new bigger theatre/expo/conference centre - $3.883 million this financial year and $6.6 million across 2022–2024.
A third group, Northland Development Corporation, also wants to partner with the council through its Riverside hotel and entertainment precinct development which includes a conference centre and large auditorium.
Hetaraka said her group was ready to go, it just needed funding.
Hihiaua Cultural Centre was one of the recipients named in Whangārei's newly-announced $20 million PGF Whangārei revitalisation funding.
Hetaraka said those behind the Hihiaua centre would be meeting WDC today. FNT2013 said it wants the council's $10 million towards the cost of building the proposed new Forum North theatre.
The group's Ian Reeves said council wouldn't have to worry about funding the balance of the $35 million theatre as his group would organise that.
Another trust speaker said the Hihiaua Cultural Centre would complement the FNT2013 plan.
Greg Randall, a theatre design and build specialist, said it was crucial adequate ongoing operating funding was also part of calculating how much a new theatre would cost.
"Capital investments have to be matched by operating investments," Randall said.
These would be about $1 million annually for the new Forum North precinct theatre, up from the $250,000 theatre running costs currently.
Mai said it was clearly important to pay attention to how the new theatre would be managed for what ratepayers would see as a significant cost.
FNT2013 said a trust was the best way to run the new theatre, rather than it being run by council or a commercial operator.
The FNT2013 bid was made at a council briefing as councillors decide on which projects to include in council's 2018-2028 Long-Term Plan.
Forum North's Capitaine Bougainville theatre's future was considered as part of research options.
WDC researchers said this theatre provided expansion challenges as increasing its size would worsen already-existing issues of theatregoer seats being unable to get a direct line of sight to the stage.