The Tauranga City and Bay of Plenty Regional Council signed a memorandum of understanding on general conditions and obligations for a new NZ$10m Tauranga Marine Precinct project. The event is considered a milestone in the development of the marine cluster after years of research.

The project will create a dedicated marine service facility, along with many boating businesses, at Sulphur Point in Tauranga. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council Regional Infrastructure Fund will provide NZ$5m as a grant, while Tauranga City Council’s contribution of NZ$5m is expected to be offset by sales of council properties on and near the site.

“Through the Regional Council’s decision to support this project, and in so doing to protect the local marine industry, we will create opportunities for economic development,” said Mary-Anne Macleod, Bay of Plenty’s chief executive, in a statement. “It’s an important step in preventing the loss of skill and knowledge from the region.”

Mayor Stuart Crosby added that the cluster for marine businesses would create a “centre of excellence” for the city and region.

The project will include a 200-tonne travel lift, which will be New Zealand’s highest-capacity travel lift, to haul superyachts. A 2013 research paper said the cluster will create 195 jobs and add NZ$15.12m to the regional economy each year. It should be able to cater to recreational, commercial and cruising vessels. The cluster is hoping to compete for the superyacht refit market with Auckland, where NZ$29m was spent on superyacht projects in the last year.

Sean Kelly of Western Work Boats said establishing the marine cluster in Tauranga was “a very long wait”, but should allow the area to secure business. “The Marine Precinct is a huge leap for the growth of Tauranga’s marine community,” Kelly said in the statement. “The marine community has suffered many blows at the demise of infrastructure that it once enjoyed.” He said the cluster’s new facilities would mean that all its factory servicing can be done in Tauranga instead of outsourcing to other companies.