unique children's playground costing $300,000 is planned for Tauranga's downtown waterfront next year as a catalyst for a private investor to build a cafe.

The playground opposite Wharf St is part of a $4.9 million, 10-year plan for the waterfront approved by the Tauranga City Council yesterday.

It was one of three major decisions made yesterday that will go to public consultation next year. The others were the Pilot Bay boardwalk and the Greerton Library upgrade.



It continues the $600,000 already earmarked to be spent in the current financial year to transform the waterfront from a parking precinct.

January will see construction start on a waterfront walkway from Dive Crescent and the redevelopment of carparks into lawns south of Wharf St.

The playground area, stretching from Wharf St to opposite Masonic Park, will be be built later next year, followed by upgrading the Spring St railway crossing.

Yesterday's meeting learned that economic development agency Priority One was seeking resource consent to allow the installation of 10 leased commercial outlets in a cluster at the southern end of the waterfront in and around the Edgewater Fan opposite Spring St. The outlets would each be housed in converted containers called customised portable buildings or kiosks.

Priority One's city centre manager Duarne Lankshear outlined how the portable buildings and the playground cafe would be built by the commercial sector. He asked that the terms of the council's leases would firstly need to be "enabling" and then to provide a "soft start" to recognise that the waterfront was in a transition.

Total estimated revenue from the kiosks, the cafe and the existing kiosk at the Edgewater Fan was $28,000 to $47,000 for years one and two, growing to $80,000 to $140,000 six years later.

The council's role in the redevelopment would see $500,000 spent in 2013 to complete the Spring St crossing, upgrade the crossing opposite Masonic Park and to begin building the underpass at the southern Strand extension. The following year would see $500,000 spent to finish the $750,000 underpass and $50,00 to "rationalise" The Strand's street furniture.

Yesterday's meeting overwhelmingly supported the $4.9 million big picture. The balance of the 10-year plan focussed on completing the northern reclamation carpark and redeveloping Dive Crescent.

Cr Larry Baldock said Tauranga had one of the best waterfronts anywhere and it was time to trade the cars for activities. Cr Terry Molloy said the plan would provide the canvas for commercial development.

Cr Bill Grainger said the council would be foolish not to buy into it. "People come to Tauranga because we have a beautiful city and I am embarrassed to take them down to the waterfront. We need to give it a shake-up."

One of the three councillors who opposed the plan, Cr Catherine Stewart, said it was an illusion to think that this would revitalise the city centre.

"The horse has already bolted," she said in a reference to the shift of retailing out of the downtown.

"Ten businesses in containers will not enhance our waterfront."

The opponents were scornfully referred to as the "usual suspects" and "pick three" after the vote was taken. Also opposing were Crs Murray Guy and Rick Curach. The other supporters were Mayor Stuart Crosby and Crs David Stewart, Tony Christiansen, Bill Faulkner and Wayne Moultrie.