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Changes in the water for Te Aroha Spa project

The development of a new $37 million spa complex in Te Aroha is looking less likely after Council voted at their final meeting of the year to engage further with one of the third party investors around proposed business operating models and a vision for repurposing or refurbishing the existing spa.

The proposed spa development for Te Aroha was a hot topic in the 2021 Long Term Plan, with community support for investing in Te Aroha’s spa tourism potential. Council has spent the last three years doing comprehensive investigations, with the advice and support of leading industry experts. The resulting proposal was a spa complex with a cost estimate of $37.7 million. That figure was nearly twice what had been budgeted, so Council put the project out to the global market to try and attract a third party investor.

“The investment case didn’t attract a funding partner like we hoped,” commented Mayor Adrienne Wilcock, “although that also wasn’t a huge surprise in the current economic environment. What we did find though, were two parties who may be interested in being involved in a smaller scale development, or a different kind of spa operation.”

“We know that Te Aroha has huge tourism potential. In its spa heyday, it was a bigger destination than Rotorua.”

“We’ve done a huge amount of work to get to this point and it won’t go to waste. We’re open to exploring alternative options that could still see Te Aroha thrive, but that won’t hit ratepayers as hard in these tough times.”

Council is planning to continue exploring alternative options with one of the interested parties in the first half of next year.

The Project Governance Group (the panel experts that had advised on the project to this point) has been disbanded, on the basis that a redevelopment of the existing spa would be a completely different project to the one they have led for the last two years. Mayor Adrienne was very complementary of the PGG’s work “we were very grateful for the advice and support of the governance group. As a commercial venture, it was critical to have people with the governance skills and spa and tourism industry experience needed to shape a development like this. We appreciate the time and the expertise they committed to this project.”

Council will consult with the community on the future of the spa project as part of the Long Term Plan from March next year.