What's been happening
After a strong show of community support for the Te Aroha Spa proposal during the 2021-2031 Long Term Plan consultation, Council has committed $18.9 million to the project over the next 10 years. However, it will only go ahead if the business case stacks up and there’s still a lot of work to do before the project gets the green light.
Since the funding was approved, a detailed plan has been developed that breaks the project into three stages of work – the first is an investigation phase which is currently underway. All going well, it will be followed by planning and building stages.
At the moment we are looking into the critical risks, or the unknowns, that could have a big influence on the project. One of those risks is not knowing how much mineral water there is. We need to understand the volume of available mineral water to work out how many hot pools it can fill, and part of that process is making the most of the mineral water that is already there. Some of the mineral water we currently access is unused and is literally going down the drain. We are looking at using that wasted water, rather than finding new water sources.
There’s already a lot of information helping us with that - from the years of maintenance carried out on the hot water bores, storage tanks and pipes.
Shortly we will start looking at whether the land in the Domain is stable enough to build a new facility on. As the assessment of each risk is completed the findings will be presented to Council and it is expected the investigation phase will wrap up in mid 2022.
The Project Governance Group at a strategic planning session in May 2021. From left to right: Norm Hill, Tania (facilitator), Barry Harris, Graham Shortland (Project Manager), Mayor Ash Tanner, Jill Taylor and Kiri Goulter.
The Project Governance Group oversees the project and gives direction to the Project Manager, who is tasked with delivering the project. As a commercial venture, it is important we have people with the governance skills and backgrounds needed to shape a development like this.
More expertise could be brought in but at the moment the Governance Group is made up of five members -
- Barry Harris (co-chair) - brings considerable governance and leadership experience in local/regional government and commercial enterprises. He currently serves as chairman of NIWA, Ospri, Food Waikato, Waikato Regional Airport and McFall Fuel, and is a director of WEL networks.
- Norm Hill (co-chair) - is an environmental consultant responsible for integrating cultural values into large-scale infrastructure and residential projects. He has over 21 years' experience in resource and environmental management, strategy and research, and corporate-cultural relationships. Norm is co-chairing the Te Aroha Spa Governance Group on behalf of Ngāti Tumutumu and has held many governance roles with a range of other iwi and community organisations. He is currently deputy chair of Tainui Waka Tourism Inc, trustee of the Waikato Tainui Tribal Parliament (Te Whakakitenga O Waikato), and a member of Te Ao Maaori Reference Group for the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy.
- Kiri Goulter - brings over 20 years’ experience in the tourism and economic development sectors. She was Chief Executive of Hamilton & Waikato Tourism for seven years and has held management roles with Tourism New Zealand and Enterprise Northland. Kiri is a Trustee of Te Awa Cycle Trail, director of the Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec), and is currently leading a national destination management programme with Regional Tourism New Zealand.
- Jill Taylor - is of Ngāti Tumutumu descent and brings a tikanga Māori perspective, along with an indepth understanding of the area's history. Jill is currently the General Manager of the Ngati Tumutumu Iwi Trust, and is a Director on the Trust's commercial entity - Ngati Tumutumu Holdings Group Ltd. Jill is also a Trustee on the Hauraki Rail Trail, a member of Council's Manawhenua Forum, as well as a Treaty negotiator for her Iwi on the Hauraki Collective.
- Mayor Ash Tanner - is the Council representative and provides a community and district perspective.
The Project Manager is Graham Shortland who brings the necessary commercial experience and acumen to this project. He is an experienced leader with a background in domestic and international business management. Before starting his own consultancy business, Graham was CEO of Wallace Group who were a diverse, large scale agri-business.
The Project Governance Group met with the diverse Hanmer Springs business network during their South Island study tour.
"The most successful spas around the world have one thing in common...they have nothing in common. Be bold." This is one of many memorable pieces of advice Mayor Ash recalls from the Governance Group's whirlwind South Island study tour in late July.
The tour took in Tekapo Springs, Hanmer Springs (owned by the Hurunui District Council), and Maruia Hot Springs and while they are very different businesses they are all profitable and rely mainly on the domestic market.
Mayor Ash was impressed at how open the facility managers were. "You couldn't get this information from pamphlets. We were taken into the engine room and got a behind the scenes look. They were happy to share what had been successful and what to be wary of." For example, they wished their massage and beauty areas were bigger, and advised there needs to be something else in the area to attract people - like mountain biking, cycling tracks or walking tracks. Promising feedback for Te Aroha and the wider district.
Before heading south, the Governance Group also visited some of the Rotorua day spa businesses. The opportunity to learn from others means they now have a better idea of what aspects they like the look of and, more importantly, what they do not. This will help with the next stage, as they consider the design principles for a new day spa and hot pool business in the Te Aroha Domain.