Progress on Rotorua's Lakefront development will continue, despite an almost 1500-signature petition opposing the project.
At yesterday's council meeting, all councillors apart from Peter Bentley and Mark Gould voted for "intent to approve the contract" with the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment.
A petition opposing the project was presented to the Rotorua Lakes Council at its November meeting by the Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers secretary Dr Reynold Macpherson.
When presenting the petition to the council Macpherson said it was "immoral for the council's co-governance partners ('iwistocracy') to co-plan public investment" during the petition presentation.
The word "iwistocracy" was deemed offensive and the presentation was stopped.
At yesterday's meeting councillors and staff questioned the validity of the petition signatures against the redevelopment.
A staff report noted "some duplication of names" and that 163 people provided no address, 54 people were international visitors and 71 were from other parts of New Zealand.
Councillor Charles Sturt said that "1482 of a growing population of 74,500 people, which is less than 2 per cent of our population, signed that petition".
"To stop [the redevelopment] mid-stream would be a travesty ... And if we do stop, I don't know where we're going to get the $811,000 to repay the initial contract spent on providing for the initial business case."
He said since the petition presentation, people had approached him saying they signed "under the wrong pretences".
Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson said he had a "significant number of people" approach him about what was put to them when they were asked to sign the petition.
"There were issues such as 'there's going to be no playground left on the Lakefront' or 'do the museum first'."
MBIE has pledged $19.9 million towards the Lakefront development through the Provincial Growth Fund, adding to the Rotorua Lakes Council's $20.1m.
The council predicts the project will bring in 470 jobs and $305.7m in private and iwi investment.
It requires the removal of the vacant Soundshell and Scout Den, and the road from Memorial Drive through to Government Gardens, but it will amalgamate tourism operators into a purpose-built building, move visitor parking away from the lake edge, relocate the Wharewaka (Waka House) and create a community water sports area for waka ama, a 600m boardwalk, and a new play space.
The staff report on the project said the council would not necessarily reduce debt if the Lakefront development did not go ahead.
"Damage to council's reputation may mean that council must fully/significantly fund a number of other major projects as partners may withdraw their support ... the museum and Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre being examples."
Demolition is expected to finish early next year so the project's construction can start.
After the meeting, Macpherson said Sturt's comments were "fatuous".
He also said that "dismissal of tourist petitioners' views was bizarre in a city that thrives on tourism".
"In sum, opposition was suppressed."