One of Northland's most delayed projects is about to get off the ground, 20 years after it was first mooted.
Work will begin today on a new station for Paihia's Volunteer Fire Brigade. The site, a car park on Selwyn Rd around the corner from the current Williams Rd station, was blessed on Wednesday morning by the Rev Eru Taurua while firefighters sheltered under umbrellas from the rain.
The new station will be built by Kaikohe firm Henwood Builders.
Deputy fire chief Rex Wilson said the Fire Service had been talking about a new station for 20 years, and eight years ago the then-national fire commander said it would be built the following year.
Firefighters welcome the news. They have been running out of a substandard station with health and safety issues and little space.
"So the guys are pretty excited. Once they get the new building they'll be a lot happier - but that said, they go there to do a job. As long as they can serve the community they're happy." There were some concerns about the project's timing but the builders had promised to get the piling work out of the way before Christmas.
Mr Wilson was pleased a Northland company won the contract.
Fire Service Muriwhenua area manager Allan Kerrisk said getting as far as Wednesday's blessing had been a long journey.
The Fire Service was working with neighbours to minimise disruption and would stop work over the busiest summer period. An opening date had not been set, he said.
The need for a new building is driven by the size of the 1960s fire station - there isn't enough room, for example, for firefighters to put on their protective clothing until the fire truck is driven out of its bay - and because it occupies a site considered crucial to the future development of Paihia.
The project has been discussed at least since the early 1990s but faced bureaucratic delays including the Public Works Act and disagreement between Far North Holdings and the Far North District Council, which carried out a land swap to allow the new station to go ahead.