New Whakatāne $29m boat harbour fast-tracked

11:08 am on 28 January 2022

Fast-track consenting made available for Provincial Growth Fund projects could see work start on a $29.4 million marina in Whakatāne mid-year.

The first stage of the development will provide berths for around 60 commercial boats and a travel lift.

The first stage of the development will provide berths for around 60 commercial boats and a travel lift. Photo: Supplied / Wardale Marine Industry Consulting

Named Te Rāhui Herenga Waka, the boat harbour is to be constructed through a partnership between landholders Te Rāhui Lands Trust, Whakatāne District Council, Ngāti Awa Group Holdings and the Crown, which was formalised yesterday.

The new boat harbour will provide commercial boat operators with access to better facilities and more berths while increasing economic returns for the community.

Te Rāhui Lands Trust representatives met with East Coast MP Kiri Allan last week. Pictured are Charles Bluett, Kiri Allan, Brian Simpson, Te Arani Barrett and Dayle Hunia.

Te Rāhui Lands Trust representatives met with East Coast MP Kiri Allan last week. Pictured are Charles Bluett, Kiri Allan, Brian Simpson, Te Arani Barrett and Dayle Hunia. Photo: Supplied / Wardale Marine Industry Consulting

Funding of $19.6 million has been provided by the Crown via Kānoa - Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit - for the build of the boat harbour, and $9.8 million is to be contributed by Whakatāne District Council, with Te Rāhui Lands Trust providing the site.

Project director Phil Wardale from Wardale Marine Industry Consulting, who first recognised the potential of the site, said the group had gained approval to utilise the fast-track consenting pathway provided by the Ministry for the Environment for Covid-19 recovery projects.

Wardale said the project would create the equivalent of at least 30 full-time jobs during its construction and, longer term, was expected to create upwards of 600 new jobs and flow-on economic benefits for Whakatāne.

As part of the project, areas of wetland will be restored and improvements made for public and recreational use of the Wairaka area, where boats are now berthed.

He said from his first meeting with Te Rāhui Lands Trust members they had seen the potential for the project.

Te Rāhui Lands Trust chairman Brian Simpson said the project would restore the connections and mauri of the river for future generations and enable key outcomes for the trust to be achieved.

"The project has empowered us as kaitiaki to utilise our whenua in a way that respects and protects the dynamic river environment and provides employment and training for our owners and Ngāti Awa."

Simpson acknowledged East Coast MP Kiri Allan as a key player in supporting the trust and partners to reach agreement. "We recently met with Kiritapu Allan and were excited to share the news that the partnership had been formally established between Te Rāhui Lands Trust, Whakatāne District Council, Ngāti Awa Group Holdings and the Crown via Kānoa - Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit."

Allan said the formalisation of the partnership represented an important milestone in the region's economic development.

"I congratulate the partners on the hard work to date and look forward to seeing the project come to fruition," she said.

Whakatāne Mayor Judy Turner said the council had long supported the development of a new boat harbour.

"[It will] further unlock opportunities in our local marine and tourism sectors, and drive wider economic, social and environmental benefits.

"The project forms a key part of our district's economic development strategy, which is further magnified by our need to respond to Covid and its impacts. This unique partnership represents a new and exciting way of delivering core infrastructure into our region."

Wardale said the fast-track consenting pathway, which enabled a more streamlined consent approval process, was designed to support New Zealand's recovery from the economic and social impacts of Covid-19.

"Fast-tracking the consenting application means the review and processing timeframes are condensed. This means it's up to us as a project team to ensure we have provided a robust and well considered application that answers any and all questions that may arise."

He said the fast-track consent process gave surety of the timeframe that it would be within 72 working days. Though there would likely not be an open consultation process, stakeholder groups would be consulted with.

Wardale told the Beacon he had spent a lot of time with relevant stakeholders including environmental groups such as Forest and Bird and the Whakatāne Harbour Care Group in the preparation of the consent application.

Community engagement will be ongoing as the project moves through the consenting process. Subject to receipt of consents, construction is expected to begin in the second half of 2022.

Future possibilities

The site has the potential to accommodate a recreational boat harbour, a boat ramp, and further businesses. Currently this is not funded, but it is hoped that it will be built following the completion of the first stages and as demand allows.

Project manager Phil Wardale said the first stage of Te Rāhui Herena Waka is expected to take around two years to complete once work starts.

It would provide berthage facilities for around 60 commercial vessels from 14 to 30 metres in size, working as commercial charters and in aquaculture and fishing.

It will also offer a travel lift of 80-to-100-tonne capacity, providing a new option for vessels to be hauled out and undergo maintenance. In a future stage of the project, berthage for recreational boats, a boat ramp and additional commercial premises are proposed to be developed.

There will also be a new marine training school onsite to provide skilled workers for existing and new businesses in Whakatāne's marine industry. This already boasts New Zealand's largest and most successful and productive builders of aluminium boats, Extreme Boats and Surtees Boats.

The harbour project aims to ultimately provide for 800 jobs, including 218 existing jobs in Whakatāne's marine and tourism industries. Around 30 people will be involved in its construction on a full-time basis, many of them from Ngāti Awa, who will be reskilled or upskilled via training providers to support the project's contractors.

The majority of products used in construction will be made in New Zealand - from within Whakatāne or its neighbouring regions where possible - to support the country's recovery.

The project will have an immediate improvement on local water quality. Several riverside berths will be removed once the boat harbour is complete. Removing these vessels will improve and restore river flow. The project will also include the restoration of an area of land to the north-east of the site to create close to a hectare of restored wetland adjacent the river.

The project's design has had to consider the dynamic river environment along with sea level rise and likely global warming impacts.

Vessels located in the boat harbour will also have access to in-berth sewage disposal - almost eliminating the need to dump at sea. In addition, stormwater treatment will improve discharges from both run off, and boat maintenance activities, and planted sea walls will assist a natural ecological balance as well as water filtration.

Before Te Rāhui Herenga Waka is developed, removal of material from historic activities will be undertaken. Materials will be carefully re-used in earth works or disposed of in an appropriate manner.

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