Detailed planning for Te Pū o Te Wheke, a multi-use community and civic hub for the heart of Kaikohe, could soon be under way.
Ngāpuhi Asset Holding Company Limited is seeking funding to develop a project management and business case for the civic hub on behalf of its parent organisation, Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi o Ngāpuhi, and project partners the Far North District Council and its commercial arm, Far North Holdings.
The business case will investigate the project's commercial and economic sustainability, and cost feasibility. It will also include a detailed business plan and master plan for the hub before funding applications for the construction phase.
Paul Knight, CEO of the Ngāpuhi Asset Holding Company, said the opportunity to collaborate and co-invest in the regeneration of Kaikohe would help reverse decades of decline in the town.
"Te Pū o Te Wheke (the Heart of the Octopus) will strengthen economic activity and provide stable employment for residents," he said.
"It will bring local shoppers back to the town centre and help keep visitors here for longer, capturing those using the Pou Herenga Tai Cycle and Pou trails and the numerous tourists driving through town to and from the Hokianga."
The rūnanga had committed a prime main street site, the vacant lot formerly occupied by the Kaikohe Hotel, which it bought in 2013.
Ngāpuhi Asset Holding Company chairman Jason Witehira was equally optimistic.
"Te Pū o Te Wheke will be a centre of excellence that captures people's hearts and minds," he said.
"It will restore pride and make a bold, proud and positive statement about Kaikohe as the type of place the North wants to be.
"We will widely consult with our people, the Kaikohe community and other key stakeholders when we have secured funding for the business case."
Central to the project would be the Far North District Council becoming a key tenant of the building. The current plan was to move Kaikohe Library and other Kaikohe-based council operations, including the customer service centre, into the new facility, other tenants potentially including an information centre, café and art gallery, a museum to showcase Ngāpuhi taonga, creative and performing arts spaces and government departments.
Deputy Mayor Tania McInnes said the project had evolved considerably since it was first proposed in 2011, and was supported by Kaikohe-Hokianga Ward councillors Sally Macauley and John Vujcich.
"We recorded strong support for the concept from residents during our recent consultations on the long-term plan 2018-28, and the council has agreed to contribute $11.8 million towards the project," Ms McInnes said.
She was confident the project would proceed, saying it would be a catalyst for change, growing confidence and pride in the town.
"Te Ahu in Kaitaia was also built in partnership with a local iwi, and is now a successful and well-patronised multi-purpose facility," she said. Using Te Ahu as a benchmark, Te Pū o Te Wheke is expected to cost $15-$20 million to build.