The proposed multimillion dollar redevelopment of the Mount Maunganui hot salt water pools has been refused planning permission by commissioner Greg Hill.
In a decision released to submitters on Tuesday, Greg refused consent for the $7.5 million redevelopment on grounds similar to those raised by project objectors, such as Tauranga City Councillor Catherine Stewart.
Councillor Catherine Stewart.
Refusing planning consent stops the development, unless the refusal can be successfully appealed in the Environment Court.
Greg found the development would have more than minor adverse effects and some significant adverse effects on the landscape, the area’s visual amenity, the lack of open space, transportation and car parking that could not be avoided, remedied or mitigated.
The development also failed to provide protection of Mauao.
“It’s a great moment for the community,” says Catherine, “because they didn’t want this project.”
“They just wanted the pools maintained – they never wanted a wellness centre for massaging high end spenders.
“They have spent all that money over the years to try and do something that’s not complying. The waste of money has been going on for years.”
It has cost millions rather than thousands because it has been going on so long, says Catherine.
Tauranga City Aquatics Ltd employs three people full time on the $9.9 million project, says Catherine. Plus there is the cost to the city of all the consultant reports, the designs, the maps and the expense of holding the hearing itself.
In 2008, when Catherine’s notice of motion seeking to stop the project was defeated, the council had then been spending money on the project for three years.
A heritage and cultural centre envisaged as part of the development failed earlier when external funding could not be obtained.
Tauranga City Aquatics Ltd, a council-owned company, wanted land use consent to take 24 camp sites from the Mount domain camp for the project to expand the hot pools area from about 3285 square metres to about 5445 square metres – by about 2160 square metres.
The 5.15 hectares of public land is a conservation zone within the Tauranga City Plan and is classified as a recreation reserve under the Reserves Act.
The Mount Hot Pools are currently making $500,000 a year, says Catherine – income that was in danger of being lost to the cash-strapped city council if the $7.5 million massage business failed.