26 Nov 2021

Mixed feelings after Whangārei waterfront development rejected

6:11 pm on 26 November 2021

The scrapping of Whangārei waterfront development plans have left some relieved and others resentful.

Ōruku Landing design

The Ōruku Landing plan was rejected by the district. Photo: Supplied / Whangārei District Council

The district council was gifted $60 million in government funding for the Ōruku Landing conference and events centre, plaza, bridge and ferry terminal.

But it had to put in between $50 and $70m, meaning an average rates rise of 5.5 to 7 per cent.

Seventy-eight per cent of the 5197 submitters wanted the council to ditch the project.

Five elected members - Phil Halse, Gavin Benney, Greg Innes, Vince Cocurullo and Ken Couper - voted to keep it, but nine did not, including Mayor Sheryl Mai.

She told today's extraordinary meeting: "We have to be concerned for our people."

"They have spoken. I cannot support the proceeding of this in any way shape or form. I am not going to support an amendment."

It was an upsetting result for those who advocated for the project, like NorthChamber chief executive Steve Smith.

"I would have thought that we would have graciously accepted that [government funding], to get some momentum for the region."

Ōruku Landing design

Photo: Supplied / Whangārei District Council

Whangārei MP Dr Emily Henderson was "very disappointed" by the council's call.

"I very much hope that we don't live to regret passing up what was a huge opportunity for our city."

The government backing came from the Provincial Growth Fund, a New Zealand First brainchild.

Now the fund will put the money somewhere else - not necessarily in Te Tai Tokerau - and Winston Peters (Ngāti Wai) told RNZ Whangārei had "looked a gift horse in the mouth".

"This is a terribly sad day for Northland. Getting money out of central government is extraordinarily hard to do."

Private developers said they would add a four-star hotel and apartments, if the council went ahead with Ōruku Landing.

Architect Jade Kake (Ngāti Hau, Te Parawhau, Ngāpuhi, Te Whakatōhea, Te Arawa) was one of the consultants, helping incorporate tikanga Māori into the plans.

She had hoped the development would go ahead, but said Covid was a game-changer.

"I can understand why people are risk-averse and not seeking to embark on a project of this nature, and so if this had happened a bit earlier or a bit later, we might have had a different outcome."

Despite today's decision, she is one of those hoping the Ōruku Landing proposal will somehow have another life.

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