Famous spa in for reprieve?

Phil Campbell

With a tendency to speak on the hoof, did Shane Jones accidentally drop a tube of glycerine in Rotorua on Monday.

The Minister of Regional development with $3 million in his portfolio to oil the communities, was in jocund mood during his eight hours in the district.

He announced a further injection of $422,000 into the community and was taken with the operations at Scion, formerly the forestry research centre.

There, he happily posed with a machine which, like a sausage skin, pumped out saplings ready for planting. The ‘skin’ in this case was tough but biodegradable paper tubes.

From Scion – the site is buttressed by the imposing Redwoods to the northeast and the Whakarewarewa village to the southwest – he was taken to the Lakefront.

Kaumatua, with the usual jeu d’esprit, awaited him by a security fence over from Ngai Whakaue’s site for an expansive hotel.

The korero continued to a sign indicating the start of the Lakefront development, the trigger of much controversy in Rotorua, especially from the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ brigade.

The objectioners – we shan’t say objectionables in some cases – unfairly consider the decision a vanity project, a legacy for Mayor Steve Chadwick. But they are right on whether the Lakefront needs a makeover at all and who or what would benefit by whatever improvements.

Overlooked, however, is the decision to redesign the Lakefront at a cost of $40 million, subsidised by close $20m from the Government - made under former Mayor Kevin Winters’ administration.

While it’s equally true Chadwick had the authority when she supplanted Winters in 2013 to overturn the decision, she and the current councillors (who had approved the decision under Winters) remained true to the original move.

Several years ago, the Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust took over the new care centre at Ngongotaha, which was essentially Whare Aroha, the site of which is now being utilised for the new hotel complex.

A wee tiff ensued, as a sale was negotiated under the noses of the influential Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust, which had made a substantial donation to the new premises, which now fringes the lake at Ngongotaha incidentally.

At present, the Soundshell is being filleted internally though it’s hermetically sealed, and the cafeteria inset within the main structure has long since closed. A boat club has been sealed off. Imperceptibly, the old is being replaced by the new. 

Alone, however, stands Queen Elizabeth Hospital, named after Queen Elizabeth, the current Queen’s mother. If the lakefront was a wheat field, the hospital would stand as a scarecrow.

It juts proudly in Edwardian splendour, defiant even if it looks as if its rimu timber is ready to fall to the merest of zephyrs.

The QE build was to start in early 2017, due for completion by early 2018. The cost was within a range of $13 million to $15 million on the trust’s 11.4 hectare planned develop site.

Since second thoughts behind the scenes have taken place, that consideration had been made to shift the site to Whakarewarewa, to which Jones alluded on Monday.

During the Haane Manahi gifts to the Manahi family and Te Arawa a dozen years ago, Prince Andrew, representing his mother, was apprised of the continued uncertainty of the spa hospital, to which people throughout the country were sent because of its healing qualities. It had also been used as a repository for wounded soldiers returning from conflict.

The Prince told locals in his hearing that if there was anything the Palace could do to the Palace should know, or words to that effect.

At the time, the comments were reported without demur in the local community newspaper, the Rotorua Review.

On Monday, Shane Jones suggested his small gathering should continued to use its influence to ensure the projects go ahead. He expected his observation to be heeded, at least that was the impression.

The following day, I asked Peter Faulkner, the Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust’s general manager, if it was true the spa would remain on its present site, it won’t shift to Whakarewarewa as apparently planned, and to comment on the veracity of Shane Jones’ comments?

Peter replied: “It would be inappropriate for me to make a comment at this stage – when I am, I'll be in touch.”

Clearly a lot of water has to wash over the Lakefront yet.

But few in Rotorua would be unhappy should the present spa site remain in some form and with it a permanent reminder of the contribution the town has made to the health and wellbeing of the country.


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