Hotel carrot on menu

A hotel is needed in the central city but a carrot needs to be offered to attract investors, business leaders say.

The Whangarei District Council is inviting comments on a plan to develop 8 and 10 Dent St for a hotel.

The sites are leased by a childcare centre and a block of council-owned flats. The council is considering selling or leasing the site to private enterprise to develop a four-star hotel.

Building an 80 room, four-star hotel would bring $22 million into the district and create 110 jobs, while the hotel would employ 64 staff when running.

Whangarei Economic Development Group chairman Barry Trass says a hotel is certainly needed and a lack of accommodation affects the area's ability to host events.

"We lose a lot of sporting competitions, conferences and all sorts of things because we haven't got a decent hotel or enough accommodation. Even with the car rally it's a struggle for accommodation," he says.

"Even with tourists there's some accommodation here but certainly not enough."

Mr Trass says the council is being very bold and forward-thinking to make land available for such a development.

He says it would be great if the council offers the land for a good deal, after consultation.

"Land in close proximity to the Town Basin is not cheap, I think if we want a developer to come along here we've got to give them some incentive to build.

"All around the country we're competing with other towns and cities which offer incentives," he says.

Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tony Collins says he is not sure if there is a real business case for a hotel.

But he says a council picked site would mean one less barrier for the private sector.

"At present that's been a difficulty for some developers, identifying a piece of suitable land," he says.

Northland Events Centre manager John Lynch says the lack of accommodation often means lost business for Toll Stadium.

Larger accommodation is needed if Whangarei is to host more conferences, he says.

"With conferences of 300 to 350 people we get feedback that they would all like to be housed in one location, that's impossible in Whangarei at the moment."

Mr Lynch says a new hotel might not be able to accommodate 300 people either but it would make a difference to the accommodation options.

The council is inviting comments, on developing the 4250 square metre site on Dent St for visitor accommodation, by November 2.

Whangarei Leader