A million-dollar project to transform a neglected stretch of sandy beach into a destination for water sports and family picnics will be investigated by Tauranga City Council.

The beach on Rangataua Bay, alongside the final approach to Maungatapu Bridge for motorists heading into town, has for years been promoted as being ideal for water skiers and jet skiers because of its proximity to deep water.

Barry Benton, a member and past chairman of the Automobile Association's Bay of Plenty council, said 2.4ha of waterfront land with a safe access from the highway would be an asset for Tauranga.

It was timely to reconsider access to the beach now that the extension of SH29's median barrier to the bridge would stop potentially dangerous manoeuvres across the highway, he said.

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Mr Benton's submission to the council's 2017-18 Annual Plan was that the beach access carpark would double as a rest area for motorists.

"It would transform the area into a genuine destination for picnicking, fishing and water sports, equipped with safe parking."

Councillors backed his vision and over-ruled a staff recommendation not to proceed with vehicle access from SH29 to a carpark and existing ski lane. The project will instead be investigated as part of the 2018-28 Long Term Plan.

Mr Benton said he was thrilled with the attitude of the councillors.

A staff report on his submission said the project could proceed only if it was shown there were no adverse effects on the operation of the highway. Based on Transport Agency guidelines, it was unlikely the area would qualify for development as a rest area.

The report identified land instability and erosion issues and physical constraints that needed investigation. The constraints were that the access track would start about 20m above the beach and go down an escarpment to a carpark; and that the track would have to be built on a narrow corridor between the edge of the highway and top of the cliff.

Staff said there were also "significant issues" relating to the cultural and archaeological values of the site. A defensive Maori rifle trench was among the archaeology uncovered during recent road widening for the median barrier.

Councillor Terry Molloy said it was an ideal little beach and great for water skiing. "We need to be a little bit innovative."

Councillor Larry Baldock said it was a shame the beach was not being utilised. He envisaged that the ski boats would launch elsewhere in the harbour and meet up with friends and family picnicking on the beach.

Mayor Greg Brownless said the difficulty was that access was entirely in the hands of the Transport Agency. Councillor Bill Grainger did not think there would be any problem with access off the highway.

Councillor Rick Curach said the site was unique because, unlike other harbour beaches, the water got deep quite quickly - making it a perfect candidate for something special.

Analysis of $1m-$1.5m carpark and beach access project
- Feasibility and design costs
- Left-in and left-out slip lanes from SH29
- 1.2km access road
- Retaining structures
- Carpark and boat ramp