Persistent rain couldn't dampen the spirits of the local politicians, iwi representatives and marine business operators who took part in Thursday's dawn ceremony to launch the construction of Tauranga's new Marine Precinct.
The $6.5 million civil works contract, won by locally headquartered HEB Construction, will get under way on Monday and is expected to take about 11 months.
Mayor Stuart Crosby and Bay of Plenty Regional councillor Philip Sherry were willing to get into the excavator cab for the groundbreaking.
But, given the wet conditions, they opted to leave it to the operator to actually turn the first shovel of dirt on Tauranga's new marine hub.
Mr Crosby described the launch of the construction as a great day for the city, which had been a long time coming.
"We're a marine city," he said. "The whole point of the hub is to protect and enhance our marine industry."
Kaumatua Peri Kohu, representing local hapu Ngai Tamarawaho, delivered a karakia wishing the workers building the project a safe and positive outcome.
"It's a community effort," he said. "We're working together and that's good."
Marine Precinct project director Phil Wardale said HEB had been confirmed in the role about six weeks ago, and the parties had since been working closely to develop the best engineering design solutions for the project.
"We really enjoyed working with HEB to refine the tendered design," said Mr Wardale.
He added that having the work carried out by a locally-based company was a factor in the selection decision.
With HEB's support, the council has selected a modern engineered solution for the hardstand, which support the combined weight of New Zealand's largest-capacity vessel hoist and a vessel of up to 350 tonnes.
"HEB provided us with value engineering solutions and alternatives, which will enable us to deliver a quality precinct within the project budget. We also did a lot of work with HEB to look at alternative solutions for the seawall and finishing elements for the lifting bay."
HEB has a large pool of local resources and is able to manufacture construction elements in town which would otherwise have to be imported, he said.
The project will use precast concrete components to finish the lifting bay.
The company is very experienced in marine infrastructure, having worked on marinas and ports around the country, including extensions to Tauranga's port.
HEB has built more than 20 wharves throughout New Zealand, including four in Tauranga, said chief executive Derrick Adams.
"We have a large steel fabrication workshop and the ability to manufacture our own precast," he said.
"It's always great to be a part of local project that we know will benefit the city and the region we live and work in."
Deliverables include the 6300sq m heavy-duty hardstand, a new concrete wharf, a lifting bay complete with runways for the vessel hoist, seawall armour rock protection, access roads and other core infrastructure services to the new lots.
HEB Structures Tauranga area manager Andrew Hiscox said they would be self-performing the majority of the construction works with very little sub-contracting.
The civil works would open with drainage works on Monday, then move to piling operations, with the hardstand installed last.
Opening of the precinct is pencilled in for September 2017.
"I think the marine hub will be fabulous for Tauranga," said Mr Hiscox.
"It's something the Tauranga marine industry has really missed. It's good to see it's going to come back."
The Marine Precinct
• An $11.4 million project to deliver a purpose-built marine servicing facility at Sulphur Point.
• Stage 1, by mid-2017, will include a range of lots for marine businesses, a 6300sq m vessel storage area, deep-water marina berths for large vessels, and NZ's largest vessel hoist.
• BOP Regional Council is the funding partner, contributing $5 million through the Regional Infrastructure Fund. TCC's $6.4 million contribution will be partially offset by the sale of properties.