WHITIANGA’S GRAND CANAL AND ISLAND OPENS
Leigh Hopper recognises an opportunity when he sees one, and he saw one in 1996 when he flew over Whitianga enroute to Pauanui.
A swathe of farmland caught his eye, tucked behind the little town and bounded by the river, with the beach just a hop, step, jump away.
But his mind’s eye pictured something else: a canal development housing 1000-plus homes, retirement villages, big box stores and boutique retail, marine servicing, a medical centre, and a hotel.
Three years later, consent for the first stage of Whitianga Waterways was in hand, celebrated with a big ‘‘hooley’’.
Fast forward 18 years to last Saturday, and Hopper – managing director of Hopper Developments and director of Whitianga Waterways – celebrated the official opening of the Grand Canal and the island it encircles, the country’s first man-made residential island.
The development is about 40 per cent complete, with 460-plus sections opened up and hundreds of houses built.
The 60-unit Marlin Waters retirement village is under construction, with units snapped up and occupied as soon as they are built.
The Warehouse, PlaceMakers and Countdown supermarket sit on waterways land on the main road into town.
In another 20-odd years when it’s finished, Whitianga Waterways will be the single biggest development on the Coromandel Peninsula.
Dockside, an eight-unit retail development with canal access, will house Whitianga Waterways’ sales office, a cafe and other ‘‘boutique’’ businesses, and maybe a shared office space, as connectivity allows more people to work from the beach.
The Moorings 200-unit retirement complex offering different levels of care will be built across the main road.
Plans include three four-storey apartment blocks and they plan to break ground within two years.
The timing is right, says Whitianga Waterways project manager Peter Abrahamson, with ‘‘lifestyle retirement’’ projects going ‘‘gangbusters’’ nationwide as people’s perception of retirement living changes.
It will be the latest of several multi-million dollar retirement complexes built and operated by Hopper Developments.
Within five years, expect to see progress on a 100-plus unit tourist hotel. The canal-front site has now been released and the concept will be firmed up over the next few months.
But it won’t include ‘‘a long corridor with 100 doors off it’’, says Abrahamson.