Whangārei: Submissions overwhelmingly against Oruku Landing events centre

4:42 pm on 22 November 2021

Whangārei District Council's proposed Oruku Landing convention and events centre has had a big thumbs down from submitters - on the eve of the council deciding on whether to go ahead with the facility.

An artist's impression of the proposed Oruku Landing development on the edge of Whangarei Town Basin, with ratepayers being asked to pay $63 million towards a $123m conference centre that is part of the plan.

An artist's impression of the proposed Oruku Landing development on the edge of Whangarei Town Basin, with ratepayers being asked to pay $63 million towards a $123m conference centre that is part of the plan. Photo: LDR / Northern Advocate

Almost 80 percent of the 5242 submissions received were against the council funding the $136 million centre. There were 3682 submissions against the council going ahead with the centre compared with 1021 submissions in favour of WDC doing so.

Roughly 500 submissions were still to be processed by Whangārei District Council (WDC) when this information went into the agenda.

Whangārei District Council received the record 5242 submissions from the 18 October to 18 November public submission period. These will be the focus of a 24 November council Oruku issues and options meeting, ahead of the council's decision on the proposed centre.

WDC councillors on Friday decide whether to proceed with the centre, part of the bigger $250 million Oruku Landing development with a hotel, apartments and more on Whangārei Town Basin.

The private developer says the publicly-funded centre is crucial to attracting the hotel to the bigger development.

A WDC yes would also commit ratepayers Far North, Kaipara and Whangārei ratepayers to paying for the centre through a further Northland Regional Council (NRC) rates rise of 1.4 percent to pay for $6 million it has earmarked for the facility.

This submissions' yes/no breakdown was based on analysing 4724 of the 5242 submissions.

Of these, 78 percent or 3682 of the submission analysed at the then time of writing were in favour of WDC taking no further action with the project.

Meanwhile, 22 percent - 1021 submissions - were in favour of WDC continuing with the project. The remaining 21 of those analysed were neutral or unable to be processed.

The more than 5000 submissions have been collated into roughly a thousand pages in the agenda for Wednesday's issues and options meeting. These can be viewed here.

Those who were against cited issues including being against the up to seven percent WDC rates rise to pay for the centre, environmental issues such as sea level rise, lack of parking, instead using the Government funding towards fixing an ailing Whangārei Hospital and money being better used for other things.

Those who were for the centre cited reasons including future proofing Whangārei, the location as well as its economic, social and cultural benefits.

Northland Development Corporation owner Barry Trass' submission called on WDC councillors to be bold in their Friday centre decision.

"My expectations is (sic) that councillors need to be bold and visionary and think of future benefits and job opportunities this development will provide. Please don't get too focused on the short term pains or persuaded by the habitual nay-sayers. Trust the process, the time expended, expert knowledge and advice, and the scrutiny this project has already undergone to get to this point. It's shovel ready - let's do it!" Trass said.

Former WDC councillor Robin Lieffering submitted against the proposal.

"I am not satisfied that there is sufficient substance to the financial assessment of this project. Any construction is likely to over-run by as much as 30 percent - 50 percent and when we are considering a project costing many millions any over-runs will also be in the millions, " Lieffering said.

"The Events and Conference Centre, currently named the Semenoff Stadium (in Whangārei) , was supposed to meet this event and conference provision for the district and has proven to be a rugby and function centre only.

"We do not know if this has been fully paid for yet? The hotel is not confirmed either. Too many loose ends. Please bin this proposal," she said.

However, former WDC councillor and Tutukaka-based Northland tourism leader Jeroen Jongejans submitted in favour of the $136 million proposal.

"If we always listen to the "we cannot afford this", we would still be in tents. Progressive smart development is what is required for our constituents, it is about vision, courage and responsible actions- sitting still is going backwards.

"We need to be cognizant of the NZ Refinery closure and subsequent economic turmoil- we need to invest to remain an attractive destination for visitors, investors, businesses and the next generation, " Jongejans said.

no metadata

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs