Waikato’s new tourism ‘gateway’ hailed

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A billion dollar development in Horotiu featuring a water park, hotel complex and housing will inspire other tourism initiatives and create a whole new gateway to the city and region, according to Waikato’s tourism boss.

Hamilton & Waikato Tourism chief executive Jason Dawson.

Hamilton & Waikato Tourism chief executive Jason Dawson has hailed as “inspiring” Perry Group’s Te Awa Lakes development which took its first formal step last week when Perry Group lodged plans with Hamilton City Council.

Perry Group plans to transform its former quarry site north of Hamilton into a mixed use development including a water theme park and residential subdivision complete with other recreational, tourism and accommodation facilities.

Mr Dawson said Te Awa Lakes will become the new gateway to the city and region, as well as a recreational hub connecting the new extension for the Te Awa Cycleway once the new river bridge opens next month.

Perry Group chairman Simon Perry.

“You will be able to walk, run or cycle right up to the base of the Hakarimatas in Ngaruawahia. This development will inspire other tourism, transport and recreation experiences around the area, and create opportunities for Horotiu, Ngaruawahia and on the Waikato River.”

Mr Dawson said Te Awa Lakes will be a welcome addition to the visitor attractions in Waikato.

“As the bulk of our visitor expenditure comes from our domestic market – $1.08 billion for domestic compared to $366 million from international – creating more products and experiences for locals and our sub-regional market is vitally important.”

Perry Group chairman Simon Perry also emphasised the opportunity to attract Aucklanders to the water park complex and the region, particularly with the Waikato Expressway nearing completion.

“We have Hobbiton and Waitomo Caves but other than that a lot of tourists bypass Hamilton. We want them to come here and stay and this could be a hub from where they venture out to those highlights plus other attractions in Hamilton.”

“Our vision for the site is to create a gateway to Hamilton that will create a destination for visitors, help address the city’s housing needs, and strengthen our connection to our river,” he said.

Perry Group has submitted a rezoning request to the Hamilton City Council which on September 21 accepted the request, allowing the plan to go through a resource consent hearing process.

The site bordered by the Waikato River and the Waikato Expressway is currently zoned for industrial use and the submission requests rezoning the 62 hectares of land to medium density residential and major facilities zoning.


Perry Group plans a mix of 850 single family homes, terraced accommodation and apartments set within lakes and green spaces. Mr Perry said New Zealand housing trends show households are declining in number, while there is a significant affordability issue.

“We are looking at a master plan for medium density terraced housing that reduces the cost of the land footprint but still gives you the opportunity to buy a high quality home,” he said.

The water theme park would work well alongside housing.

“People like to look over water and they also like to see a bit of activity there so it’s about trying to combine those element together. The complex will offer nice views for both residential and tourist accommodation.”

Mr Perry said the plan is to create a wake park incorporating a circuit – the first in the country. The wake park would probably be complemented by an aquatic park with a number of bouncy castle type elements aimed more at families.

The park could also feature beach areas and a tower climbing structure with dozens of obstacles to be navigated.

Perry Group is also considered adding ziplines and golf activities to the mix. Bike park facilities will be available which will link Te Awa Lakes to the river ride as well as Hakirimata Summit Track. Perry Group is also looking at various food and cultural tourism attractions and has had initial discussions with the Maori King’s office about possible opportunities afforded by the close proximity of the Waikato River to celebrate the Kiingitanga movement.

Accommodation facilities are an important part of the Te Awa Lakes plan.

“We see Te Awa Lakes as an opportunity to put at least one or two quality hotel products in place and potentially more backpacking lodge style accommodation as well,” said Mr Perry.


Perry Group has a 65-year history in the Waikato, including as a founding promoter of the iconic Te Awa River Ride through the Brian Perry Charitable Trust. The Te Awa Lakes project plans to link closely with the popular river ride, which will shortly include a bridge to link Horotiu with Ngaruawahia and the Hakarimata scenic reserve.

“It will be a half hour cycle ride from Te Awa Lakes to the Hakarimata reserve, we see it as a great opportunity for residents to live, work, and play all in one area,” said Mr Perry.

Perry Group chief executive Richard Coventry said Perry’s is in a unique position with its site where it can “really move at speed to get results for the region.”

“This is a five-year, billion-dollar vision, and we think it’s the right move for our city as it continues to grow.”

He said that the alternative use for the site under its current zoning was big-box industrial activity.

“We don’t think that’s right for a riverside location of such importance to our city,” he said.

Mr Coventry confirmed that the company is in a position to begin construction as early as October this year, pending the outcome of the plan change process.

He said Perry’s also plan to lodge a Special Housing Area submission with the council to run parallel to the Plan Change. This may offer an avenue to begin Te Awa Lakes’ construction sooner and deliver much needed housing to the market.

“Te Awa Lakes is something we’ve been thinking about for a long time – we want to create a real sense of arrival in Hamilton that demonstrates our river is at the heart of our identity. We’re excited to be at the stage where we can share more information and vision with the public and with Council and hopefully get started as soon as possible,” said Mr Coventry.

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Geoff Taylor

Waikato Business News editor Geoff Taylor.
Email: geoff@wbn.co.nz

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