The development of a university campus in Tauranga's downtown has emerged as a top priority by two heavyweight applicants vying for a slice of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's $38 million infrastructure fund.
Both the Tauranga City and Western Bay District councils have narrowed their wishlists in order to maximise the chances that the campus will be chosen as one of the projects to be funded.
Expressions of interest to the regional council's fund close on Friday, with $38 million available to support projects over the next nine years.
The council was looking to partner large projects which provided sustainable economic benefits to the Bay.
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby told the Bay of Plenty Times that the campus was the council's key priority for funding from the infrastructure fund.
''The project is vital to this area but it will only get over the line with a lot of collaboration. The hard part was finding the capital funding.''
The two councils have thrown their weight behind the application by the Bay of Plenty Tertiary Education Partnership's plan to develop a university campus in Durham St - on council-owned carparks opposite the Bay of Plenty Times.
A major hurdle before the partnership could apply for funding from the regional council and TECT was cleared earlier this year when the city council decided the campus could use the land at no cost for 33 years.
The first two stages costing about $30 million were for two buildings at least five storeys high and housing 1000 equivalent fulltime students (EFTS).
Construction of the first building would begin as soon as possible in order to be ready for at least 500 EFTS in 2015.
Stage two would begin in 2019.
The students would pour at least $30 million a year into the economy through fees, accommodation and personal spending.
Mr Crosby said the campus would have to roll out programmes that related to the economy of the Bay of Plenty.
''There has to be a point of difference from New Zealand's other universities.'''
He said the council's back-up project for funding was the plan to develop a marine precinct on harbour front land it owns at Sulphur Point.
The application was for funding to develop a boat haul-out facility.
The council wanted to resurrect an industry that Tauranga had been renowned for - until it lost the 600-tonne slipway to the new Harbour Bridge.
Western Bay District Council's discussions on what it might apply for coveredawhole range of things but it eventually narrowed it down to supporting the campus and Katikati's town centre development plan.
Transport planner Gary Main said there was no question that the fund would be over-subscribed and the council was mindful of the other organisations which would be applying.
Even the council's two priorities would account for $20 million of the $38 million.
The regional council was seeking expressions of interest in order to guide potential project partners on issues such as eligibility.
It would also help assess the level of interest in the fund and the period over which funding might be drawn down.
The ''indicative'' timing for the 2012-13 funding plan would see full applications open on November 7 and close on January 31.
Decisions would be made in April and contracts signed with the successful project partners in May/June.
The successful projects would begin on July 1.