University land grab resisted

Sulphur Point in the early days.

Waikato University’s proposal to set up a commercial marine science centre on a grassed area at the north end of Sulphur Point is being firmly resisted by the boating population that already uses the area.

Council staff who set up an information kiosk on the spot on a recent Saturday morning found themselves facing a tough crowd.

“None of the people who turned up were in favour of the proposal,” says Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Commodore Nick Wrinch.

“There was a lot of anger at the meeting which was directed at council staff who, it was felt, were representing the university rather that the ratepayers.

“It is easy to understand why the university want this piece of council land and it has nothing to do with the proximity to good sea water and boat ramps.

“The ‘beauty’ of this site is that they will, in all probability, be able to negotiate a peppercorn rent with council which will save them a fortune.

There are numerous other sites that have been suggested to them, including an area at a redeveloped Dive Crescent which would be the best place for this facility – but that would have to be a commercial lease, so not attractive.

”There was universal agreement that this valuable piece of land should not be used for the commercial purposes.

Nick says council staff are also breaking their own policy governing the look of the city and its recreational spaces.

“It is just too valuable for the future of recreation in Tauranga, and we mustn’t use greenspaces for that type of use,” he says.

“I really get where they are coming from, but these bits of grass are just so precious and to have a commercial organisation such as the university coming onto that seems wrong to me.

“There was quite a lot of energy there about it, and there was quite a lot of people that were fired up about it.

There’s a lot of passion.

They believe strongly that this is the wrong site and shouldn’t even be considered.

”Everyone at the meeting was supporting the campus in Tauranga, says Nick.

“But the overriding message was that this is not the right place and no-one wants to be asked ‘however did you let that happen?’ by their grandchildren in years to come.

” Council staff were unable to answer questions about the proposed marine centre’s size and height, or give a clear indication regarding how many people will be working there.

“One guy was asking, quite specifically, how many square metres of floor space they wanted.

They just didn’t know, and that was quite disappointing,” adds Nick.

“We are asked to give an opinion on something when we are not being given the full information.

“It’s all a bit up in the air and there’s no good solid information coming out at the moment.

I kind of get the impression that they don’t really know what they want.

”Sulphur Point was created from spoil from the major harbour dredging projects.

Older yacht club members say the western side of Sulphur Point was granted for recreational purposes.

The city took ownership when the former Bay of Plenty Harbour Board’s non port properties were handed over in 1989.


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