Work officially began on the Tauranga waterfront revamp yesterday morning with a blessing and sod-turning held three minutes after the morning's rain cleared.
A group of about 25 councillors, workers and iwi members gathered beside the playground on the waterfront at 9am, where newly elected mayor Greg Brownless turned the first sod.
"Finally something is happening," he said.
"It's going to bring a bit more life since the Coronation Pier was demolished. I think people have missed having a wharf. This is going to be just as popular."
He jokingly asked to use the large nearby digger to make the first dig, but settled for a spade.
His fellow councillors told him to "put your back into it" as he turned the sod.
Councillor Bill Grainger said he thought the waterfront development was "great".
"Now we can get access to water and I can bring my grandkids down to enjoy."
The blessing was opened by kaumatua Puhirake Ihaka, who welcomed the attendees to the event.
Tauranga City Council chief executive Garry Poole said there had been a lot of planning and preliminary work.
"Which will mean it will be well planned, well timed and on budget," he said.
He said the work should be finished by April next year, in time for the Jazz Festival.
Director Landlab director Henry Crothers said cities were defined by their relationship with water, with the waterfront project aiming to reengage and connect Tauranga City with the harbour.
"The council team have consulted widely over the last 18 months, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, that there should be more opportunities to engage and experience the water.
"That's the purpose of the project."
Mr Crothers said investment in the public realm generally led to a corresponding increase in visitors and spending.
He said safety had "always been at the forefront" of the project.
"I think the proximity to the playground is a concern that has come up. But by creating tidal stairs we're improving the safety of the edge. You can't fall like you may fall from the existing wall. I would see it as an improvement."
Tauranga City general manager of city transformation Jaine Lovell-Gadd said the council had consulted with various health and safety experts about concerns of the water access.
She said the council had also talked with other councils around the country with similar waterfront projects to make sure the design was safe.