Paihia waterfront set for multi-million dollar facelift

Far North Holdings is set to implement parts of a long-shelved plan to develop the waterfront at Paihia in the Bay of Islands. It has received $8m from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) to build breakwaters that will protect waterfront infrastructure, including the town’s wharf and main road, and utility services such as sewage and water.

Far North District Council (FNDC) has earmarked an additional $5.3m to the project. This would enable development of the recreational area and restoration of the beach between the wharf and Nihonui Point if this is what the community wants.

This was once the most popular beach in the area but is now almost completely eroded. Timing around the availability of this funding, and therefore the work associated with it, has yet to be confirmed by the council.

The design and components of the waterfront redevelopment will be subject to input and prioritisation by the community and FNDC. Options include an expanded and enhanced recreational area, a cycleway, a promenade, inter-tidal beach steps, shelters and seating.

A 170m breakwater will extend from Motumaire Island towards Nihonui Point in the north-west and a 200m section will sit between Motumaire and Kuia Rongouru (Taylor Island) to the north-east, with breaks in or at the ends of the structure.

The design was altered after consultation with the late Emma Gibbs-Smith, kuia of Te Pēwhairangi/Bay of Islands. The breaks will allow marine life unfettered access around the islands and better maintain the independence of the islands without compromising the breakwater’s ability to protect the Paihia waterfront from damaging wave action.

Existing proposals feature groynes at each end of the re-nourished beach to help reduce future erosion and retain the beach.

If the beach is reinstated Far North Holdings will use 25,000m3 of dredge material from within the area encompassed by the breakwater. This is material that has been eroded from the beach over past decades and washed seaward, shallowing the area. It will be topped with 20,000m3 of fine sand from Pahi.

Chris Galbraith, Far North Holdings’ general manager, said the Paihia waterfront development project had stemmed from conversations the company had many years ago with business and community leaders in Paihia. They wanted to enhance and improve the Paihia visitor experience, to re-position Paihia to attract tourism in light of a more competitive period ahead.

The plan was consented and granted Ministerial approval in October 2010, after a 10-year process of research, consultation, planning and design. But it was shelved while the company focused on other projects such as the development of the Opua Marine Park, Bay of Islands Marina and tourism infrastructure in the Hokianga.

Depending on community input, some relatively minor aspects of the original design may need to be changed. In this case Far North Holdings will consider the merits of seeking amendments to the consent and advise the community accordingly.

Other commercial aspects of the original consented design will not be developed at this stage. These include additional buildings and a southern wave attenuator with berths. Chris Galbraith, Far North Holdings’ general manager, said it was possible that the company would revisit these at some point in the future.

Far North Holdings aims to put all work out to public tender late this year and appoint contractors. Public procurement processes will govern the awarding of contracts and Far North Holdings is expecting several local contractors to bid for the project.

At this stage it is anticipated that construction will start late this year and take 24 months to complete. Mr Galbraith said work would be scheduled to create as little disruption as possible over peak tourism periods.

He said the breakwater would protect the considerable investment that had gone into the recently-refurbished and expanded Paihia Wharf.

“We’ve all seen recent images of tidal surges and storm swells bashing into this vital piece of infrastructure,” he said. “Paihia Wharf is the busiest in New Zealand, in terms of passenger traffic, after those in Auckland’s Viaduct. Some 45 local maritime businesses rely on it directly for their livelihoods. The tourists who use it go on to use the services of thousands of other tourism businesses across the region. So it’s a significant public asset.

“We were able to persuade the PGF to spend $3m on upgrading it recently and this additional funding will enable us to protect that investment for the benefit of ratepayers.”

Far North Holdings will project manage and facilitate the development. The community will decide which components will be developed with the funding available, using an approach which has yet to be defined. A working group comprising local individuals and organisations will help deliver this.

Far North Holdings aims to host three community meetings in the week of 10 August to brief Paihia residents on the plans and to answer questions about the various components of the development. Details will be advertised on social media and in local newspapers. Further community meetings will be held at regular intervals once work starts.

Written project updates will be provided monthly once work starts and will be shared both on social media and on the Far North Holdings website.

Grant Harnish of community group Focus Paihia said: “As a Community Trust we are thrilled that our community will be so involved in deciding which of the consented waterfront components of the development will be created with the money that has been granted. This furthers our goal of making Paihia an even better place to live, work and visit.”

Charles Parker, Chairman of the Bay of Islands Marketing Group, welcomed today’s announcement and said an improved waterfront would lead to a better visitor experience, which would lead to more guests and more repeat visitors.

Belinda Ward, Chair of the Bay of Islands-Whangaroa Community Board, said: “We look forward to working with the community and Far North Holdings to advance the next stage of the Paihia Waterfront Masterplan for all the Far North district to enjoy.”
About Far North Holdings Ltd

Far North Holdings Limited (FNHL) is responsible for managing and operating the commercial activities of the Far North District Council. These include Port Opua, Bay of Islands Marina, Kaitaia and Bay of Islands Airports, Paihia Maritime Buildings and Paihia Wharf, Williams Road Car Park and the Kaitaia Education Campus.

Since 2005 all FNHL’s trading surplus has either been distributed to the Far North District Council or reinvested in property and infrastructure within the Far North District. The Far North District Council estimates that without this financial contribution general rates would have been approximately four percent a year higher, each year, over this period.

FNHL’s mandate includes the support and development of economic activity in the Far North.