Perry Group launches billion-dollar water adventure park, Te Awa Lakes plan for Waikato

The site could be home to an adventure park where visitors can try wakeboarding or scramble over an inflatable aquatic park. It's the site of Perry Group's proposed Te Awa Lakes development.

It was a sand quarry and now a north Hamilton site might be transformed into a water-based adventure park.

The park proposed by the Perry Group would feature activities such as cable tow wakeboarding and an inflatable obstacle course.

But the billion-dollar Te Awa Lakes development  – bordered by the Waikato River and the Waikato Expressway - wouldn't be all adventure.

Tourist and cultural attractions, accommodation, housing and a business zone are part of the plan for the 62 hectares of Te Rapa North land. 

Perry Group has asked Hamilton City Council to rezone the land to allow for Te Awa Lakes, instead of the kind of big-box industrial complex currently permitted.

"We've got a unique location on the side of the river and it also is the northernmost entry point of the expressway to the city. So we've got this fantastic opportunity to create a great gateway," Te Awa Lakes development director Lale Ieremia said.

"It's that opportunity when you drive in not to see tin sheds on the side, but maybe to see something a little bit more reflective of what Waikato is."

At Thursday's council meeting, elected members will decide whether to reject the request or – if they let it progress – how best to deal with it.

t's a billion-dollar project expected to take about five years, Perry Group chairman Simon Perry said.

He was born and bred not far from the Te Awa Lakes site and says it would be a waste to use the area for industrial buildings.

Instead, he and his team have visions of an attraction for Waikato people and tourists alike, and attached accommodation that could make a kind of hub.

"We're close to Auckland Airport with all those international tourists," he said.

The group hopes to include some food tourism, such as showcasing Waikato products, and perhaps agri-tourism.

Perry Group's request to council says the adventure park is expected to have between five and 10 activities and could attract around 200,000 visitors a year.

It's still early days, Perry said, but activities are likely to include a wake park in which boarders are towed on a cable coming from a tower.

An aquatic park – "a giant bouncy castle on a water body" – is also part of the plan.

The group is proposing about 850 new homes as part of Te Awa Lakes.  "You've got the river on one boundary and the lake internally," Ieremia said.  There are plenty of water views around, the housing will be mixed, and Perry Group plans to take a "masterplan view of the area rather than an infill approach".

Affordability would be an aim, and homes in the residential area of about 39.7ha would range from detached dwellings to terraced housing.

And Perry Group is keeping a close eye on council's special housing area policy as well as submitting the plan change request.  "We're using both [processes] to make sure we can get there," Ieremia said.

The wider Te Awa development will have more than a kilometre of Waikato River frontage, along which Perry Group plans to make an esplanade reserve and link with the Te Awa River Ride – which the Brian Perry Charitable Trust supports.

It's not far to the Hakarimata steps, which Perry and Ieremia call the "bike and hike" option.

Plans for Te Awa also include a business zone of around 5.8ha, to expand on the existing BP service station and retail premises.  Perry Group has consulted with neighbours around Te Awa Lakes, iwi and hapū, and three different councils.

"Most of the neighbours actually are saying, 'When will you start? And can I buy a property there?" Perry said.

Construction could start as early as October 2017, pending the outcome of the plan change process.  City councillors don't yet have to decide whether the zone change should be approved, a staff report said.

"At this stage, council is only concerned with the preliminary question of whether the plan change should be rejected outright, or whether it should be given the chance to be tested and evaluated under the RMA process."

Councillors have been given four options.

Staff recommend accepting the plan change request for testing and evaluation by three independent commissioners. It would be publicly notified.

Other options are rejecting the application outright – which council can only do if it fits certain criteria, processing the application as if it were for resource consent, or adopting the plan change as if it were suggested by council and taking responsibility for planning and costs.
The Te Awa Lakes site used to be within the Waikato District but was transferred to Hamilton City Council in July 2011.