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New Zealand is to get a $20 million gold discovery centre designed to attract additional tourist spending and provide a mid-way stopover between the visitor hot points of Auckland and Rotorua.
The Waihi Gold Discovery Centre is to be built on the rim of the Martha Mine at the top of Waihi’s main street and only metres from State Highway 2.
The project is a public-private joint venture between New Zealand Mint and the Vision Waihi Trust, a group formed to ensure the area benefits long term from the opportunities provided by the gold mine.
It also has the support of Newmont Waihi Gold which operates Waihi’s Martha Mine, the Hauraki District Council and the Government’s national economic development agency New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
Hauraki District Council announced this week that approvals were granted for the extension of the towns main street streetscape to the carpark entrances of the proposed building. Applications for resource consent are due to be lodged shortly and it is understood that the effects of the project with regards to non compliance are relitively minor. And notifications will only be required to those businesses directly involved.
The Waihi Gold Discovery Centre is designed as a tourist attraction to provide a stop-over point for the 100,000 plus tourists who visit Waihi and the nearby Karangahake Gorge as well as those who take the scenic route south from Auckland to Rotorua.
The underground centre will operate as a commercial tourist attraction to showcase the areas and New Zealand’s gold mining heritage. Interactive and technologically-advanced displays will show how gold is mined and refined and share holder in the project, New Zealand Mint plans to hold regular gold pours.
New Zealand Mint director Mark Sutton says a feasibility study of the project predicts it will generate turnover of $6 million a year.
“The Waihi Gold Discovery Centre will be a world class visitor experience utilising NZ Mint’s creative and innovative high tech delivery techniques to add value to New Zealand’s tourism offering.
“The project represents a perfect example of private enterprise working with local communities to help provide economic stability and sustainable growth for smaller areas,” he says.
Vision Waihi Trust chief executive Eddie Morrow says the centre will be a nationally significant tourist attraction.
“This project represents great opportunity for the town and is part of an ongoing programme designed to help Waihi’s sustainability and secure its future. Gold mining has been a big part of the town’s history but it won’t last forever so we need to act now to ensure we are able to manage our own destiny.
“But it’s not only good for Waihi. The Waihi Gold Discovery Centre will provide an additional resource for New Zealand’s tourism proposition and help grow the amount visitors spend when they are here.”
Waihi has a gold mining history and rich heritage that spans three centuries, from the 1880s, through the 1900s and into the present, says Newmont’s regional director of environment and social responsibility Christine Charles.
“There are people involved in today’s modern operations with family ties to the early mining era. Newmont Waihi Gold is proud to have been a partner since the inception of the process to establish and develop Waihi’s 2020 Vision for a vibrant and sustainable future.
“The company will continue to support the work of Vision Waihi Trust and sincerely congratulates the trust on its commitment to bringing the dreams of the community into reality.
“The Discovery Centre is an exciting and worthwhile project that will embody the spirit and true grit of a town and its people proud of its heritage and looking forward to a bright future.”
Hauraki District mayor John Tregidga says the Gold Discovery Centre will become an icon tourist attraction for both the Hauraki district and the wider Coromandel region.
“The Council is very pleased to support the project and confirmed its commitment and financial contribution to it at our council meeting on 13 September. This project will transform Waihi into a major visitor destination and provide a fantastic range of opportunities for the surrounding communities.”
The centre will be about 4,000 sq m in size and is expected to open in late 2010at a completed cost of around $20 million.