Ferry from Auckland to Coromandel Town among grand plans for 'neglected' region

The gold rush might have established Coromandel Town, but a meandering little stream could transform it 170 years later.

There are grand plans to reclaim an estuary at the township and build a $30 million marina with berths for charter vessels, apartments, and a direct, daily ferry service to Auckland.

But the project hinges on money from the Provincial Growth Fund. While it has already secured $100,000 for a feasibility study, it will need $10 million to work.

Gilbert James has been trying to get the project, named Coromandel Gateway, up and running for two decades.

"I think it's a really big deal," he says.

"It will change Coromandel. It'll change the whole peninsula. We've got behind…we're 50 years behind in facilities".

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says it has been a "bugbear" of his that "we can fast track a rich white man's sport like the America's Cup, but we're not allowed to fast track things in the provinces".

"That ain't happening on my watch."

The Gateway is one of three projects set to transform the Coromandel, as well as a new marine service centre in Kopu, and a $20 million project to expand Sugarloaf Wharf - the only place for the aquaculture industry to offload their catch and which is already at capacity.

"It's now starting to hinder the efficiency of the operations, and it certainly won't provide for the growth that's expected to occur over the next 25 years," says Stephen Hand from the Coromandel Marine Farmers Association.

In that time growth is expected to triple, and the Coromandel already produces more than a quarter of the country's mussels and pacific oysters.

Mr Jones says 2000 jobs will be created if all the projects stack up, as the region has been neglected for decades.

"It has been impeded and retarded by excessive levels of red tape and a disinterest on the part of the crown."

The Thames Coromandel District Mayor is also onboard.

"It would be another game changer for Coromandel town," says Sandra Goudie.

"It would grow your population, grow your services, grow your businesses, and that's actually what the locals want."