2 May 2024

Whanganui council considers $55 million four-star hotel

7:07 am on 2 May 2024
Whanganui mayor Andrew Tripe.

Whanganui mayor Andrew Tripe believes a 60-bed 4-star hotel would provide an economic boost to the city over time. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

A council proposal to build a $55 million four-star hotel and carpark is dividing opinion in Whanganui.

The project is included in the city's draft long-term plan alongside proposals to cut services and sell $16 million worth of assets.

Mayor Andrew Tripe says current tough times should not preclude council from having bold aspirations, but not everyone is so sure.

The draft long term includes average rates increases of 10.6 percent - which are picked to go even higher - but that hasn't stopped the Whanganui District Council floating the idea that it get into the hotel business.

Its preferred option according to the LTP consultation document is to drive the project itself, but it's open to working with a developer or hotel group.

Tripe said the time was right.

"There's no doubt that a four-star hotel is needed. We had a market demand study done completed by Horwath HTL hotel consultants who suggested that a 60 plus room four-star would be strongly desired for Whanganui."

He said New Zealand's only UNESCO City of Design was no longer a quiet backwater.

"We've just seen that our Sarjeant Gallery has been named one of the top 10 hotspots by National Geographic globally and we're only going to see an increase in numbers both business sector and visitor sector regionally but also across New Zealand and internationally."

Tripe said a new hotel would also allow Whanganui to bid for more conference business which it was currently missing out on.

But it would not come cheap.

Rates would need increase $30 a year per property though until 2039 to pay for it.

Only then was it envisaged the hotel would begin to make a return of $4 million annually.

And that was the issue for councillor Rob Vinsen.

"If this business case was so strong we should have no trouble finding a developer because my opposition to this is not opposition to a hotel in Whanganui it's to council doing a development.

"It is not council's business, the ratepayers' business to develop a hotel."

Whanganui councillor Rob Vinsen

Whanganui councillor Rob Vinsen doesn't believe council should be in the business of building and running a hotel. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

He reckoned council should stick to core services.

"A local authority, a council, elected councillors around a council table have various skills, but we're just not equipped to run businesses.

"We should stay out of that field. We are not good at it and unfortunately we often find we are not good at it 10 years down the track."

On Victoria Avenue there were mixed views on the hotel proposal.

Bill the busker wasn't a fan.

"Hell's teeth who are the going to get to run it and all that? Have they got the expertise?"

Peter could see an upside.

"I reckon there's a place for both local and national in putting in place facilities if the business model stands up. There is definitely a need for accommodation in this city."

Lynne wasn't so sure.

"I was quite amazed when I saw that and I just thought why? I don't get it."

Kevin thought council should have other priorities.

"I think it is something council shouldn't be getting involved with. I think it's a more commercial thing."

Latu got it.

"It's a good idea. If they say we've been missing out on things and we can build a hotel that'll be a good idea."

Moana reckoned the timing was pretty poor.

"It will just put the rates up for everyone and not everyone can afford their rates around Whanganui."

Public submissions on the draft long term plan close today.

Just under 1000 submissions have been received so far - a record for Whanganui and 30 percent more compared to the previous LTP.