NZ Sugar Company to open $7 million tourism venture on Auckland's North Shore
A sweet new tourism operation is being added to the Chelsea Sugar Refinery on the Birkenhead waterfront of Auckland's North Shore.
The New Zealand Sugar Company is investing $7 million into building a new visitor experience centre on the historic site, set to be complete by April next year.
The centre, which will be called Chelsea Bay, will put on tours of the 133-year-old sugar refinery business, and house a baking school, a cafe and an interactive history exhibition of the famous Kiwi brand.
NZ Sugar general manager Bernard Duignan said the company was hoping to draw 50,000 visitors, both domestic and foreign, to the centre each year.
"For a long time now we've had such positive feedback from the local community about how much they used to enjoy the Chelsea Sugar factory tours when they were school kids," he said.
"A highlight for them, and a lingering memory, is being in awe of the enormous raw sugar mountain."
The Chelsea Sugar Refinery is a processing plant, shipping in raw sugar through the Waitematā Harbour to convert into the brand's iconic pantry products.
In the 1980s and 90s, tours of the refinery would draw quite a crowd. Around 10,000 adults and kids would be shown around the factory each year.
Duignan said there had already been interest in tours since the announcement of their return.
"[With] more and more Kiwis wanting to know where their food comes from, we wanted to do something that would open our doors and show a whole new generation of Kiwi's how we operate," he said.
Duignan also said the new development, which will create 16 new jobs, would open up a section of the foreshore to the public for the very first time.
Birkenhead Residents Association chairperson Gillian Taylor said she was pleased to hear the development was taking place, believing it would enhance the area.
"Our community considers the Chelsea refinery a big part of the history of the area; residents and visitors love the Chelsea Heritage Park and walkways," she said.
"The Chelsea refinery factory is an iconic building for us."