An artist’s impression of the proposed Oruku Landing development on the edge of Whangarei Town Basin.
A Northland tourism leader facing thousands of dollars in extra Oruku Landing conference and events centre rates, says ratepayers across Tai Tokerau should be supporting the controversial facility.
Tutukaka-based Jeroen Jongejans will pay an extra $15,000 in Whangārei District Council (WDC) rates for his two commercial properties over the next decade if the council goes ahead with the $136 million Oruku Landing conference and events centre and its supporting infrastructure.
But he said this extra money, via a 7 per cent Oruku centre rates increase next year with further future impacts if the development goes ahead, was worth it.
Ratepayers should support the facility through the council’s public submissions process, he said.
The former WDC councillor’s comments come on the eve of Thursday’s 5pm end to a month of WDC public submission on the controversial centre.
At edition time, the centre development proposal had attracted a record 3555 submissions.
Jongejans owns Dive Tutukaka, New Zealand’s biggest diving and ecotourism business, on Whangārei District’s east coast. He is also on the Tai Tokerau tourism sector’s Northland Destination Management Plan leadership group.
He said proceeding was about being forward-thinking for Whangārei, Northland and New Zealand. WDC and Northland Regional Council (NRC) ratepayers will potentially pay $76 million towards the $136 million Oruku Landing conference and event centre if the district council decides on November 26 to proceed.
That decision comes ahead of the November 30 Government funding uptake deadline for its $60 million earmarked for the facility.
Jongejans said it would be the missing link in creating an Auckland Viaduct Basin-like Town Basin where people could enjoy urban recreation.
The cost of the centre and surrounding infrastructure has already gone up by more than $13 million from WDC’s initially-forecast figures.
Jongejans said development projects such as the centre always increased in cost. People had to get used to this.
The centre would be a major boost to the economy of Whangārei and Northland.
“There will be an overflow effect to Whangārei Heads, Tutukaka and across the North in a way that doesn’t happen now with people often driving direct to the Bay of Islands,” Jongejans said.
“It would be a stimulus for hospitality and visitor numbers.”
People who came to the centre would in turn come back to wider Northland for future visits.
Opponents of the plan are concerned about the rates rises, and ongoing future costs, as well as wanting Forum North to be the site of a theatre and conference centre.
Whangārei, Far North and Kaipara ratepayers will all be paying for the new Town Basin centre via extra Northland Regional Council (NRC) rates. NRC is putting up $6 million for the proposal.
Jongejans said Northland-wide rating was justifiable and a process already used by councils for other facilities in the region.
People from places including Kaitaia, Pouto, Mangawhai, Kaikohe, Te Hapua and elsewhere across the Far North and Kaipara could visit and use the conference facility when they came to Whangārei or hold sector meetings.
Online Oruku Landing conference and events centre submissions can be made here https://www.wdc.govt.nz/Whats-new/Have-your-say/Oruku-Landing-2021/Oruku-online-form