A day of celebration has turned into a day of controversy for the Pilot Bay walkway, with silent protests and dismay that the path was not following the planned route.
Protest signs provided the backdrop to the official sod turning ceremony yesterday at the Salisbury Wharf carpark end of Pilot Bay.
The ceremony involving councillors, Port of Tauranga representatives and local iwi went ahead without disruption from protesters nearby.
It opened with a karakia, two waiata and a brief speech from kaumatua of the local iwi Ngai te Rangi before Mayor Stuart Crosby spoke.
Mr Crosby said the silent protest was "part of the democratic process".
However, issues that have dogged the planning of the project, centred on the loss of grassy foreshore, reared their head in earnest when excavations began on the first section of the boardwalk.
Councillor Catherine Stewart and others realised the excavated route did not match the route drawn on the project sign. The path took a big loop into the grassy area in front of a norfolk pine, instead of going between the pine and the side of the road.
Cr Stewart said the change was despite community concerns to preserve as much of the green space as possible.
"The idea was to stick as close to the trees as possible. The map does not reflect what is happening on the ground. It appears community concerns have been ignored."
Mr Crosby dismissed her concerns as a "storm in a tea cup".
He told the Bay of Plenty Times that the council decided in April to put the boardwalk as close to the side of the road as practical.
"It had to go around the tree to be practical. It was a simple, practical alternative in tune with the council's resolution."
He said he was concerned that some councillors were attempting to undermine the project.
Park rangers team leader Warren Aitken said there were two norfolk pines where it was not practical to go between the trees and the kerb because the gap was too narrow.
Either the boardwalk would have needed to be narrowed to 1.5m or bridged over the tree roots, but the bridge would have made it too high for people to open the doors of parked cars. Acting on arborist advice, the boardwalk was placed 3m away from the front of the trees in order to avoid future maintenance problems.
Councillor Murray Guy said he had no involvement in the posters "but that doesn't mean I don't support them [the protesters]".
Communications manager for the project Frank Begley said there had been compromise over the location of the walkway throughout the process.
"The intention of both parties is to preserve as much of the green space as possible. We hope it will take the foot traffic off the grass."
The project will include storm water outlets and a new storage area for the waka ama club and a storage rack for the dinghies currently left on the grass.
Pilot Bay boardwalk
Total cost: $364,500.
The boardwalk will be on the road-side of the grass on Pilot Bay and on the road-side of the trees where possible.
The walkway will continue from the grass to Salisbury wharf along the beach-side of the carpark.
It will vary between 2.5-3m wide.