Tauranga City Council's decision to drastically cut back the money allocated for the new Mount i-Site is being challenged by Tourism Bay of Plenty, which is succeeding in bringing the issue back for debate by the council.
City councillors chopped the $4 million allocated in the draft annual plan down to $2.5m by a narrow 6:5 vote.
At Tuesday's city council meeting Tourism Bay of Plenty chairman Des Hammond told councillors that if there is not a future-proof, fit-for-purpose i-Site provided, then Tourism Bay of Plenty will be reviewing its decision to lease a building that will not be fit for purpose.
Tourism Bay of Plenty is a Tauranga City Council Controlled Organisation. Des told councillors that the information obtained by TBOP, which was the basis on which the designs and costing were based and passed on to council, was also the basis on which the original $4 million was agreed to by the city councillors, and included in the draft annual plan.
There was no way he could see the council building anything sufficient for the required purpose for $2.5 million, says Des.
They need a facility large enough to cater for several thousand cruise ship passengers all wanting to get off the wharf at once. They need to be dealt with effectively, quickly and they need to be sold on Tauranga, according to Des.
All of the research supported a fit-for-purpose future-proofed option, a visitor centre that is big enough to be able to handle the expected growing numbers of tourists off the cruise ships.
Expecting Tourism Bay of Plenty to make up the missing $1.5 million will also not work, says Des. They are not professional fundraisers. Nor will reducing the size, to make it cheaper, as that will make it no longer fit for purpose. He appreciated the thought, but the $4 million build was already a compromise.
Tourism BOP has invested $120,000 obtaining expert advice on the project, and accepts the advice of the experts.
“And we are asking council to do the same thing,” says Des.
It will require a notice of motion to bring the issue back to council.
The vote to reduce the amount was 6:5. Mayor Greg Brownless, Rick Curach, Bill Grainger, Gail McIntosh, Steve Morris, and Catherine Stewart voted to reduce the funding from $4 million to $2.5 million.
Greg says after this week's meeting he is having a close look at all the material presented by Tourism Bay of Plenty to the city council.
“They are also saying that currently they spend $300,000 a year on the i-Port, getting that all set up,” says Greg. “If you look at that, it perhaps makes more sense to do this other one.
“I'm still keen to keep the price as low as possible but without sacrificing anything that would be stupid to do.
“They feel that the $4 million we went out for consultation on is essential to get that size and functionality.
“So they say it's not just a visitor information centre it is the i-Port which will be on land. So they will be saving money by not having to do the i-Port as well. It is an i-Port as well and therefore we may as well do this up to full spec.
“I can see the point if they are going to have a visitor information centre there it may as well cater for the cruise ship passengers as well. I do take on board their point they all get off the ship at once so suddenly you have got potentially hundreds of people in there. Something of that current size wouldn't cope.
“I'm prepared to look at those figures again.”
Instead of stating the requirement is a $4m centre, another approach may be to see if someone can come up with a design that meets the requirements without costing the full $5 million, says Greg.
“Design and build that could be part of it.”
He also wants to see the direct beneficiaries of the new i-Site, such as tourism businesses, free up their wallets a bit.
“But I don't see too much sign of that. And I know there's a trickle-down theory and there are those who do make money, and I would like to see them step forward.”