Weekend Sun   

Task force predict city’s bright future

An artist’s impression of the new Elizabeth Towers building, which is currently under construction.

A property leadership group have suggested central Tauranga could soon be considered the “commercial and cultural heart” of the region.

The Urban Task Force, whose board includes property developers, lawyers, construction specialists and consultants, claim the city is poised to overtake Rotorua as the “civic heart” of the Bay of Plenty.

Members of the group believe now is the time to “dream big”, as the city’s new Elizabeth Towers project on the corner of Devonport Road continues to take shape and buildings on The Strand and Dive Crescent are demolished and cleared.

Via a statement released this week, the collective are seeking inspiration from the likes of Hamilton, with one local architect claiming Tauranga is approximately “two years behind” New Zealand’s fourth-biggest city in terms of development.

Chairman Scott Adams, who is also the managing director of land development firm Carrus, says it is time to “shift the narrative” and “put the bad news stories behind us” when it comes to some of the city’s well-publicised issues, which include large numbers of empty retail spaces in certain areas.

“The Long Term Plan is now in place and a significant shift in momentum is underway at Tauranga City Council,” says Scott. “It’s time for the private sector to step up and join the conversation about how we shape the future of the city.

“We want this to be the place where people from all around the region come to spend time and money.”

The group say almost a $1 billion worth of development is either underway or in the pipeline in central Tauranga, and are encouraging collaborative discussions between the public and private sector about ways to revitalise the CBD.

“Both the commissioners and council CEO Marty Grenfell have signalled their intention to work proactively with the business community to forge lasting improvements for the city,” adds Scott. “For the first time, we feel like our voice is being heard."

A budget of $500,000 has been earmarked by council to begin consultation work.

Urban Task Force member and iwi leader Buddy Mikaere claims the changing governance landscape has offered an “enormous boost” to the city’s Māori population, the group have also praised the impact of the council commissioners that were installed by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta earlier this year.

“Iwi business interests have a unique opportunity to be heard in this new environment,” says Buddy. “We need to use our position as the region with the largest Māori population to our advantage, and create meaningful pathways for our rangatahi through partnerships in areas such as tourism with private businesses.”

“The people of Tauranga have become frustrated and disengaged,” adds Scott. “It’s important that we bring them along on this journey and that they feel a part of the changes.

“The commissioners are prepared to make the tough decisions. Unlike elected councillors, their reputation as professionals relies upon their performance in the role. They are more driven to leave a lasting, positive legacy and we’re keen to support them in that work.”

Maungatapu-based architect Mark Wassung, whose projects include Auckland International Airport, suggests taking a leaf out of Hamilton’s book when it comes to the CBD’s future direction.

“Tauranga is about two years behind Hamilton in terms of development,” says Mark. “We can learn some real lessons from their set-up, in particular the Urban Design Panel that they established to oversee development.

“A similar structure here would enable us to design our inner city in a collaborative and cohesive way. “We could also look to the many past designs proposed for the city over its history. The decades of rejected plans held on file for the Tauranga CBD should be revisited to gather common ideas that may have been previously dismissed as not right at the time.”

 

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