Progress on Whakatane harbour development

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A new boat harbour proposed for Whakatāne is one step closer to construction with the recent formalisation of a partnership between Te Rāhui Lands Trust, Whakatāne District Council, Ngāti Awa Group Holdings, the Crown via Kānoa – Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit, and agreement from landowners to progress the development.

Once completed, the development will provide commercial boat operators on New Zealand’s East Coast with access to better facilities and more berths while increasing economic returns for the local community. However, it involves a number of different groups and Bay of Plenty Business News understands it has taken some time to resolve the complexities involved.

Project director Phil Wardale confirmed to Bay of Plenty Business News the project had now gained approval to utilise the government’s Fast-Track consenting pathway, which enables a more streamlined consent approval process. This is 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 time frames are condensed,” he said. “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.”

The $29.4 million Boat Harbour aims to ultimately provide for 800 new 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.

New jobs to be created

Organisers said the project will initially create the equivalent of at least 30 full time jobs during its construction, and longer term is expected to create upwards of 600 of 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 currently berthed.
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.

Named Te Rāhui Herenga Waka, the boat harbour will be located adjacent to the Whakatāne River, on land that has been unproductive for many decades.

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.

Berthage in Whakatāne is currently restricted by capacity at the town wharves, so it will provide safer and more resilient berthage facility initially for around 60 commercial vessels working as commercial charters, in aquaculture and fishing, from 14 to 30 metres in size.

It will also offer a travel lift of 80-100-tonne capacity, providing a new option for vessels to be hauled out and undergo maintenance on New Zealand’s east coast, where there is demand for, and a shortage of facilities.

In future stage of the project, berthage for recreational boats, a boat ramp and additional commercial premises are proposed to be developed.
Restoring river connections

Te Rāhui Lands Trust Chairman Brian Simpson says the project will 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.”

Whakatāne mayor Judy Turner said: “Council has long supported the development of a new boat harbour to further unlock opportunities in our local marine and tourism sectors, and to 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.
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. 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.

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


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