Green light for Te Manawataki o Te Papa development

By ANNE TOLLEY, Tauranga Commission Chair

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Late last month, the Tauranga City Council Commission approved the most significant investment in community facilities the city may ever see, with the redevelopment of the civic precinct given the green light.

Named Te Manawataki o Te Papa – the heartbeat of Te Papa – this $306 million redevelopment will see the construction of a new library and community hub, civic whare (community meeting house), museum and exhibition gallery on the central city block bounded by Wharf, Willow, Harington and Durham streets. Associated landscape and waterfront improvements will also add to a greatly enhanced city centre environment.

A business case for this development received at the Council meeting on 24 July clearly outlined the significant benefits the development would create for the city, its residents and the wider subregion.

Of particular importance is the impact Te Manawataki o Te Papa would have on the revitalisation of the city centre, with an expected tripling of visitor numbers (to 5,500 people a day, or 2,000,000 visits a year) by 2035. By comparison, current foot traffic counts in The Strand/Wharf Street area are around 1,600 people a day.

In economic terms, that is expected to increase the present value of local and regional economic output by around $500 million, with wider benefits totalling a further $500 million over the life of the buildings.

Part of the reasoning behind the development is also to encourage greater inclusiveness, a sense of belonging and cultural awareness and identity and in that regard, the museum and library/community hub facilities are expected to have a considerable impact, with over 300,000 and 800,000 visits respectively each year. As a result of that community involvement, it’s anticipated that by 2035, most residents would have a greater sense of pride in their city and would therefore be prepared to recommend it as a visitor destination.

All of that additional activity will contribute significantly to city centre GDP, generating wider economic benefits of up to $1.37 billion (in net present terms) over the next 60 years.

As part of that equation, a more attractive city centre is expected to support further high-density accommodation development, with around 3,000 extra people living in the area, plus around 600 extra businesses opening up within the 60-year timeframe.

There is of course a price tag for this development and one of the key challenges the Commission set for the proposal was that, in addition to the benefits being demonstrated, the financial strategy behind Te Manawataki o Te Papa also had to stack-up.

Since we rebooted the civic precinct project in 2021, a number of ongoing national and global challenges have been encountered, such as Covid-19, escalating construction costs, and a rise in inflation and interest rates.

Given these challenges, it’s really pleasing to see that our development partners, Willis Bond, are confident they can deliver the civic precinct programme of work within the overall approved budget of $306.3 million.

The initial commitment we made was that the rate-funded debt for the project would not exceed $151.5 million.

We are confident that a sound financial strategy now exists, which will ensure all the funding required is achievable. TECT’s recent approval of a $21 million grant towards Te Manawataki o Te Papa – the Trust’s largest-ever contribution to a single project – represents a huge step towards achieving the project’s wider investment targets.

Together with the $12.1 million in central Government Better-Off funding we received last year, this puts us in a good position to reach our goals and we will be leaving ‘no stone unturned’ in our efforts to secure the financing required.

We hope the business community will join with Council to help make Te Manawataki o Te Papa a reality and support the revitalisation of our city centre.

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Anne Tolley
Anne Tolley
Tauranga Commission Chair

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