A large investment to make Te Aroha a tourism hub for the Waikato is one step closer to a reality.
Work has begun on a business case on two applications to the Provincial Growth Fund totalling $1.7 million.
Funding includes $900,000 towards a feasibility study and business investment case for a Te Aroha Health and Wellness Tourism hub and $800,000 towards a feasibility study for a Waharoa Business Hub.
Throughout August, Visitor Solutions consultant Craig Jones, along with board members of Ngāti Rāhiri Tumutumu, who have representation on the Te Aroha PGF Governance Group, met with members of the Te Aroha community.
More than 150 survey responses were received from community members about how Te Aroha, the Domain and Te Aroha Mineral spas could be developed.
Visitor Solutions completed its study in September and it was approved by Matamata-Piako District Council to be submitted to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for approval.
The second phase, expected to be complete this month , will model the financial and commercial viability of the projects.
For Te Aroha, this will look into whether the current site is adapted to upgrade what is already there, or redevelop.
This may include redevelopment of the Domain, Te Aroha Mineral Spa and surrounding areas, fostering accommodation and small business opportunities and main street improvements.
"This is an exciting project that has such great potential and it's been wonderful to hear what ideas the Te Aroha community has. We are grateful to everyone who took the time to come to see us at the drop in sessions to share their viewpoints," said Mr Jones.
"It's clear Te Aroha has a lot of people who are passionate about their town, which is great to see. We got some awesome feedback and it was really helpful for us to be able move forward."
Project Management consultants RCP have been managing the feasibility study in Waharoa for the development of a Business Hub.
"Waharoa is in an area with many natural advantages to support the processing for agriculture and horticulture products," RCP consultant Martin Butler said.
"It's right on the railway with proximity to the ports of Tauranga and Auckland. There is also strong potential to create an employment and training hub, led by Ngāti Hauā to ensure connection to employment opportunities. The development of project business cases will help determine costs, benefits and overall viability as components of the hub in the future."
Chair of the Waharoa PGF Governance Group, Rukumoana Schaafhausen said she was pleased to see the Waharoa Business Hub progress to phase two.
"This aligned to the lift in economic and social wellbeing that community and iwi members have been asking for and contributing toward through recent workshops. She said she knows the Waharoa community see it is a positive work in progress.
"Our tupuna Wiremu Tamihana was renowned for collaboration and creating opportunities for every household to thrive. "We are keen to see this through our Waharoa Business Hub and a return to the prosperous origins of our region. As we move to the next phase we continue to do the necessary groundwork to ensure the greatest outcome for everyone — our industries and the community."
The Final Investment Case phase, will focus on securing the commitments necessary to progress from idea to reality.
■ The key projects for the Te Aroha, Health and Wellness Tourism Hub: Redevelopment of the Te Aroha Domain with initiatives such as a destination playground, new croquet lawn, and improving the Te Aroha main street, a series of spa options, using geothermal pool surface water.
■ The key projects for the Waharoa Business Hub: Reticulation of gas to the Waharoa Industrial area, a horticulture product processing facility to create up to 50 new roles, rail siding and stevedoring business, and ways to meet growing water and wastewater requirements.