A University of Waikato professor says using reserve land for a new research centre will benefit the people of Tauranga.

Tauranga City Council has taken the first step towards revoking the reserve status of up to 7000sq m of public land in Marine Park, Sulphur Point.

The section would be leased to the university for its planned multimillion-dollar marine research and education centre, supported by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Priority One.

The council will go through a public consultation process, planned for November, before deciding whether to push forward with this section, the second one to make it to the consultation stage.


The first, further north, was abandoned after resistance from boating organisations who wanted the public open space for trailer boat parking, storage and events.

Tauranga Sportfishing Club manager Roly Bagshaw said the new option was preferable from the club's perspective, but may have just moved some of the potential issues down the road.

If the council decided to proceed with the Marine Park sectioned, it must get permission from the Minister of Conservation to revoke the reserve status.

The new proposed location for the University of Waikato Marine Research and Education Centre. Graphic / TCC
The new proposed location for the University of Waikato Marine Research and Education Centre. Graphic / TCC

City council staff have also been directed to discuss a land or asset exchange with the regional council, though a previous attempt to find reserve land to swap was unsuccessful.

Professor Chris Battershill, director of the university's coastal marine field station, said the research centre would not only be a hub of regional, national and international research but would create both education opportunities and jobs for Tauranga people.

He said it would be a portal to what goes on under the surface in the harbour, and an early warning system for problems such as invasive species incursions.

The Tauranga Marina Society has also thrown its support behind the new site, though it somewhat overlaps with their early plans for a $20 million expansion.

Marina manager Greg Prescott said they would need to change the layout of their proposed expansion, but believed both projects could work in together.

Together, the two projects would leave little remaining passive reserve land in the 11-hectare reserve, which was also home to the Tauranga Fish and Dive Club, the boat ramp and parking.