A small bay at Pataua North could be filled in to create a boatramp to accommodate the number of boats launched off the beach over a few weeks in summer.
The proposed 2000sq m reclamation would offer an all-tide boatramp to the east of the footbridge, a parking area for vehicles and trailers, a grassed area and shore-up the roots around large pohutukawa trees currently threatened by erosion.
But the plan is opposed by a significant number of locals who say a beach used by the public for swimming, shellfish gathering and other recreation should not be reclaimed just so boat users can get into the water more easily.
The proposal by Pataua Residents and Ratepayers Association and Whangarei District Council was debated by the applicants and other submitters at a resource consent hearing at Northland Regional Council yesterday. It is an amended version of a similar proposal put forward in 2007.
The hearing commissioner is former NRC chairman Mark Farnsworth, who has two weeks to make his recommendations to the NRC.
Max Burgess, speaking for the Pataua Residents and Ratepayers Association's application, said infrastructure in the area had not kept pace with increased demand.
"The proposal will not impact negatively on the environment or the general community's ability to enjoy the area."
The once-sandy bottomed beach had become too muddy to launch boats off it when the tide dropped, and there were also safety issues with cars maneuvering amongst children and other people using the beach in summer, Mr Burgess said.
Among several speakers from Ngati Korora/Te Waiariki iwi and hapu who oppose the plan, Tanya Monroe said Whangarei District Council and Department of Conservation had a poor record of looking after public land at the Pataua river estuary where houses and baches encroached on land gazetted as reserve.
Resident Mike Bell said the reclamation proposal was being promoted under the Residents and Ratepayers Association banner but did not have a community mandate. "Six months of the year it's busy with boat launching. Should we fill in a beach to park cars and trailers?"
He said a more widely acceptable proposal could be developed with the reputed $170,000 price tag.