The first cruise ship to berth at Marsden Point will be the first of many that could see up to 60 ships a year call into Whangārei, a Northland tourism leader says.
The Northern Advocate can reveal that the 30,277 tonne Oceania Cruises ship Regatta, with up to 684 passengers and 400 crew on board, will be the first cruise ship to tie up at Northport, at Marsden Point.
The ship, which is the flagship of the Oceania Cruises fleet, will tie up on January 17, 2021, coinciding with the expected openings of the $26 million Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Maori Art Gallery and $200m hotel and entertainment complex.
Northland tourism leader Jeroen Jongejans said business and tourism leaders had been pushing to have cruise ships stopping at Whangārei for many years, but there had not been a suitable attraction to convince cruise ship companies to come.
''With the Hundertwasser centre and now the hotel and conference centre, and the rest of the work going on at Hihiaua and the rest of the Town Basin we will have those attractions that will be our point of difference,'' Jongejans said.
''Whangārei is now starting to attract huge interest and these developments will create jobs and careers for people here and bring visitors to the region, which has got to be good for us. This [cruise ship announcement] is a big step forward and I think within five more years we could get up to 60 cruise ships calling in. It opens some huge opportunities for us.''
He said Whangārei would complement the Bay of Islands' cruise ship industry rather than compete with it.
Northport CEO Jon Moore said the cruise ship coming was another step forward for the port after earlier this week announcing an expanded container shipping export and coastal shipping service.
"We're delighted that we'll be hosting the Regatta, her passengers and her crew. The decision by Oceania to include Whangārei in Regatta's itinerary is a recognition of the quality of our local tourism product and the investment that has been going into this.
''It's the direct result of months of hard work and lobbying by many local organisations determined to realise the potential of our regional economy. Northport is delighted to have been able to facilitate this."
Barry Trass, who is one of the parties behind the hotel and entertainment complex, said he knew the cruise ship would happen.
"It was only a matter of time and a lot of people would be brought up the harbour from the cruise ships and ferries and we want to incorporate the ferry terminal [into the hotel complex] where these passengers could disembark and either go and have a meal straight away or go to a bar.
''We're working with boat operators now who are keen so there'll be a commentary all around the harbour because there's a lot of history in this harbour so people coming up in a ferry stop from Marsden Point get off maybe at Limestone Island.
"We're already talking to an operator who's talking about having electric boats, little river cruises. You can go right up the Hatea River and waka tours.
"We've got Hihiaua just straight across and we can have waka trips from our jetties over to Hihiaua or into the Town Basin so it all ties in.''