Revealed: $1 billion town centre planned for Pāpāmoa East will be ‘four times the size of Bayfair’

By: Zoe Hunter

Details of a new billion-dollar town centre planned for in Pāpāmoa East that will be four times the size of Bayfair Shopping Centre and surrounded by 11,000 new homes have been revealed.

The Sands Town Centre will be mixed-use, with stage one including a $100 million aquatic centre with a 50m Olympic-sized pool, a large health hub and retirement village.

A large supermarket and retail outlet was also planned for the centre, around which 11,000 new homes are planned to be built.

Nathan York, chief executive of town centre propery developers Bluehaven Group, gave his submission to the Tauranga City Council’s Long-term Plan 2021-2031 on Wednesday.

Commissioners were given a sneak preview of what the new town centre and aquatic centre would look like.

“It is over 232,000sq m of consented space and will be four times the size of Bayfair,” York said.

But to get it off the ground, he said the Pāpāmoa East Interchange – connecting the Tauranga Eastern Link/State Highway 2 to the Wairakei and Te Tumu development areas – must be accelerated.

“We can’t get it without the Pāpāmoa East Interchange.

“We have estimated 80 per cent of the development is locked down until we can unlock it.

“This particular piece of infrastructure must be prioritised.”

York said housing supply was a key issue for Tauranga.

“We believe there are 11,000 homes available for development out east.”

That included 3000 in Wairakei, 6000 in Te Tumu and an extra 2000 in the Bell Rd Extension to Wairakei, which Bluehaven would be involved in building about a third of, he said.

York said the total cost of the town centre project was “$1b-plus”.

He estimated about 15,000 jobs will be created in Wairakei alone – half during construction and half permanent, once the town centre was developed.

The $100m aquatic centre, including a 50m pool – likely to be a Tauranga first – a learn-to-swimming pool and recreational areas as well as indoor sports and community facilities are planned.

York said the aquatic centre would include 300 poolside seats and an extra 500 in the indoor stadium.

“You’ve got all the infrastructure to have ultimately a regional, if not a national, asset.”

In response to York’s submission, Tauranga City Council [TCC] commissioner Anne Tolley said the 50m pool would need to be a public and private partnership.

The council’s draft Long-term Plan already proposes bringing forward investment in the Pāpāmoa East Interchange, but is subject to Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency funding.

The draft allowed $3m for design and planning of the interchange in the next financial year, then just under $87.5m over the following four years towards building it, ending in 2026.

Overall, the draft plan includes investment of $462m in and around the Te Tumu area over the next 10 years including $152m on transport and $36m for community spaces and places.

According to the plan, this would support the building of 2000 to 3000 homes in areas already zoned for housing and a further 7000 to 8000 homes in Te Tumu once it was zoned for housing.

Papamoa Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Philip Brown said new town centres were always exciting but before any development can take place the interchange must be built.

Both economic development agency Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt and Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said the interchange was needed.

Tutt said the town centre was an excellent opportunity to unlock “desperately” needed housing quickly and the interchange was key for this and other developments.

“We know this is a priority for TCC and we would also expect the Government to play a strong hand in making this happen sooner rather than later.”

Cowley said Pāpāmoa East had an exciting future but was constrained by its lack of access to the TEL.

“The growing population is currently dependent on just two routes being available.”

Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor Stuart Crosby said “the time was right” for the interchange to be done as quickly as possible.

“We know TCC has been working hard to try and make that work,” he said. “That interchange is a critical piece of infrastructure that is needed sooner rather than later.”

Crosby, also Local Government New Zealand president and a former Tauranga mayor, said Pāpāmoa had grown to include its own libraries, sports, retail and entertainment facilities.

“This is an extension of that.”

Bayleys Commercial Tauranga sales manager Mark Walton said it was fantastic to see master-planned communities with higher-density, mixed-use integrated development with “much-needed” community amenities that will provide retail, hospitality, residential and office environments.

Walton said Tauranga and the Western Bay had a “chronic shortage” of the commercial and industrial land the rapidly growing city needed, with strong demand from businesses wanting to expand.

“We continue to see strong low vacancy rates, particularly in big box retail stores, with most operators in growth mode. We have recorded healthy results in the wake of a watershed 2020.”

Subject to the Papamoa East Interchange opening in 2024, The Sands’ first stages were planned to open in late 2023 or early 2024.

The council is planning a $49m redevelopment of the Memorial Pool in the CBD in the draft Long-term Plan and the council said this was its top aquatic priority.

Towards the end of the next decade, it expected to start planning for an aquatic facility in the eastern corridor, but no decision had been made about how to fund or deliver it.

The council’s Community Investment Plan found a 50-metre pool would not be suitable for Memorial Park, but could be located at Baywave or in the eastern corridor if it was decided the city needed one.

Evolution Aquatics Tauranga board president Michael Pugh said the Olympic-size pool would make a big difference for elite-level swimmers.

“They have had to travel to Rotorua for training in the 50m pool there. When you’re coming down to splits of a second whether you make the Olympics or not being able to train in a full-size swimming pool was important.

“It’s like asking the All Blacks to train on half a field all year and then go and play the World Cup.”

The Sands:

– Health Hub, including primary and secondary care facilities to service the Eastern corridor
– Government services including police, fire, St John Ambulance and Ministry of Social Development
– Community facilities including public transport, civic space, library, combined aquatic and indoor centre and more active reserve spaces
– Huge residential options including apartments, townhouses and retirement village/s.
– Retail, hospitality, hotels and commercial office spaces
– Showrooms and home improvement tenancies

Source: Bluehaven Group

Proposed Aquatic Centre facilities

50m competition pool
25m learn to swim pool
2 x hydroslides
Toddlers, bombing & leisure pools
Spa pools
Hydrotherapy and programme pool
300 poolside seats + 500 seats upstairs
Outdoor hot water leisure pools
Wet changing area
Café & reception
Car parks

Source: Bluehaven Group