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Te Aroha Spa project reaches major milestone

The Te Aroha Spa project received Council support to progress to the next stage after viewing conceptual layouts and designs for a new hot pool and spa facility at the end of September.

Three design concepts were presented with the third option recommended by the Project Governance Group. Option three is the largest and most expensive of the three concepts and would see the facility built to completion at the outset. Options one and two are smaller but could be staged to resemble something like option three in time.

Project manager Graham Shortland is excited about the possibilities of a new hot pool and spa facility and what it could bring to the town and district. “The current Te Aroha Mineral Spas can’t meet demand because of the facility size so we need to make sure a new facility is large enough to cater for expected demand – now and into the future. It's also important the design and how the facility operates respects what the maunga (mountain) already provides for us, so it can continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.”

“The preferred location for a new facility is in the lower bush behind the Mokena geyser and the terrain would make it very difficult, disruptive and costly to stage future expansions. Costs will only increase over time and finishing the development also means the payback is much quicker which is a really important factor, along with only disturbing the ground once.”

By building a new facility into the lower bush line it is intended that a lot of the structures would be hidden as the native plants become established. The main building would house the reception area, changing facilities and spa/beauty treatment rooms. The new facility would also extend into the outdoors and use the natural bush setting to provide a private, peaceful bathing experience. While the majority of hot pools are expected to be outdoors there will be some private pools available, along with spa treatment suites for couples. There is also space for additional car parking off Boundary Road that will provide easy walking access to the new facility.

“While the designs are just conceptual at this stage, they show us that something very special can be developed in the Domain,” says Shortland. “For over a year now the Project Governance Group has talked with hot pool operators and experts across New Zealand and overseas to understand what makes their businesses successful, and work out what would make a new Te Aroha spa and hot pool facility a unique destination. That has really paid off.”

One of the learnings has been that successful hot pool and spa operations only have one thing in common – nothing. They are all different. Project Governance Group co-chair and Ngāti Tumutumu representative Norm Hill believes the Te Aroha project already has features that make it stand out from the rest. "The wai or water has unique qualities. There's a very rich history here that dates back to pre-European times with mana whenua bathing in the wai for its healing properties. That continued when Europeans arrived and today it's still considered a taonga or treasure by Ngāti Tumutumu. We want the history reflected in the design and the way the new facility operates. Being located on Te Aroha Maunga is special, and our aim is to make sure we enhance the mauriof the maunga, wai and whenua."

A lot of work still has to happen before a final design is known and the conceptual design could change following discussions with potential investors. With all of the options costing more than the $18.9 million set aside in the Council’s Long Term Plan, the Project Governance Group believe the additional funding that is required could be attracted from external investors. The next stage will see an investment case developed, potential investors approached, and impact assessments carried out if they are required.

Recently retired Mayor, Ash Tanner, has been part of the Project Governance Group and hopes the incoming Council will continue to support this project as he believes “it’s not what it costs but what return you can get out of it. If we can make this happen I truly believe it will transform this area and turn Te Aroha into a thriving town like it was back in its heyday."


  • maunga - mountain
  • wai - water
  • taonga - treasure
  • whenua - land
  • mauri - life force
  • mana whenua - Māori with ancestral relationships to an area where they have customary authority