Tauranga Civic Precinct and Sustainability

We’ll start this post by stating we support an appropriate-sized central library and museum or heritage centre in Tauranga… just so we’re all clear. But as we said in our submission to Tauranga City Council, we do not support their favoured option, and based on what we hear around the city, there’s a lot of confusion about the Council’s conclusions from their recent Civic Precinct consultation.

The Council states there were 1177 submissions, with 450 supporting the $303 million Option 1, which will now cost another $21 million for environmental “enhancements”. Yet there have been claims that a majority of people supported Option 1, so what’s the real story?

Imagine you’re launching a community cafe (government subsidised in this case) and you only have a half-completed business plan. You do a survey about potential morning tea menu items, with no details about flavours or ingredients.

Option 1 is coffee, muffin, biscuit and a big piece of cake. It costs $30.34 plus another $2.10 for eco-friendly packaging, and you tell people you’ll charge the customer $15.20. Option 2 is coffee and a biscuit and it costs $12.70, but you don’t tell survey respondents you’ll likely be able to sell it to customers for less than $5. There is no other item on the menu and no other info.

TCC effectively did just that in its recent consultation. Despite the slanted information that heavily favoured Option 1, TCC discovered that fewer than half of submitters liked either option (38% of people liked option 1, 11% liked option 2), while at least 37% strongly disliked both options, and the rest either disliked the options, chose another option, or had no opinion.

That shows a big split, with 38% ticking option 1 and about 60% rejecting it. Look closer and you’ll see that some of those people who chose option 1 didn’t actually like much about it and proposed significant changes, so the solid support is probably closer to one-third.

Back to the community cafe… the question is:
Would you launch it with just option 1 on the menu, or option 2, or test out a few more morning tea menu items? And would you tell your customers the actual price they’d have to pay for each option, or keep them in the dark?

We think it’s pretty simple and the price should be transparent. Most people want something that’s yummy, healthy and not-too-expensive, with no nasty packaging.

The problem is that we can’t get that. Even after taxpayer funding cuts the price in half, option 1 is still an expensive morning tea. Many of us don’t want to pay that much, especially when we know we’ll end up crashing an hour or so later, when the sugar-rush wears off.

However TCC’s Commissioners seem determined to ‘let them eat cake’. Even though a majority of us don’t want their expensive cake, or can’t afford to buy it, or are gluten-free and downright allergic to it. Some of us just want to wait for the lunch menu and buy something a bit more nutritious.

We think TCC needs to do some more market research on their big project, rather than relying on half a business case, a developer with a vested interest, and a couple of hundred people putting marbles in jars. We’d like to see a finished business case, and a truly sustainable, ‘community cafe’ style civic development that caters for the needs of the people who live here, not the desires of a wealthy elite.

‘Greening’ the development would make it better than it would otherwise be, but that will not make it sustainable. A sustainable civic precinct requires an optimal investment that gives best bang for buck with good social, economic and environmental outcomes and minimal environmental downsides. We need to see a business case that clearly shows those outcomes before we can support Council’s plan.


  1. Well put Mr Crowther. TCC are proposing cultural, exhibition and enlarged entertainment facilities. These facilities require, by and large, entrepreneurs to bring cultural and entertainment events to these venues.

    TCC is well aware that there is a significant level of avoidance of Tauranga by many event promoters because of previous efforts by both TCC and its CCO Bay Venues which have created significant ill will in this space.

    Fix the relationships with these essential participants TCC before hiring architectural consultants.

    History is repeating. TCC totally ignored the advice of the concert industry when building BayCourt in the 1980’s and consequently its population has missed out on possibly hundreds of quality acts since.

    The outline for the waterfront sounds ok, but the rest sounds and looks hideous.

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