Hundreds of local people signed a petition saying they do not want a safety barrier on Mangonui township's boardwalk - but according to their elected representative, no one is taking notice.

The Doubtless Bay Promotions Group presented Far North District Council (FNDC) with a 420-signature petition - a higher number than Mangonui's adult population.

Te Hiku ward member Mate Radich expressed frustration that the group had not been consulted on the design, or the process, or had the petition acknowledged.

Among vocal locals calling for the contentious barrier plan to be scrapped altogether is Mangonui harbourside resident Wayne Brown, who was Far North mayor when the boardwalk was built.

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The safety barrier decision has had the council stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea since the barrier was left off the boardwalk, built in 2008.

The structure has breached the Resource Management Act and Building Act ever since, according to the current council, as some kind of safety barrier was a condition of the resource consent issued in 2003.

In June, NRC chief executive Malcolm Nicolson wrote to the Far North council urging it to get on with finishing the job, but pointed out there was no obligation for a barrier to be "railings".

At Thursday's meeting, the council agreed to get the process moving by September 30, with mayor John Carter driving the resolution through, saying there was no choice but to comply. Staff would seek a time extension and an amendment to the design within the September 30 deadline, he said.

In a case of being hoist by its own petard, the council also had to rescind a move made in July 2009 to waive its own Building Code (clause F4) to avoid building the barrier no one seemed to want. The end of the waiver removes that loophole.

"One way or the other, there will be a barrier. What we're discussing now is its style," Mr Carter said.

When Mr Radich asked why the locals had not been kept up to date, Mr Carter snapped: "Because we haven't decided yet."

Mr Radich and Sally Macauley called for the resolution to include "meeting" with the Doubtless Bay group, rather than just "telling them" what that decision might be.

NRC regulatory services manager Colin Dall told the Advocate that if FNDC had an alternative safety barrier to the original proposal in its consent application, then it also had the option to apply to change the consent conditions to provide for it.

Staff have proposed several design options other than the unpopular vertical handrail ($200,000). The frontrunner, but yet to be worked into a final proposal, is a safety "net" below the boardwalk "to arrest any falls" ($195,000). Others ruled out as infeasible were seabed excavation to remove rocks someone could fall on ($350,000), a bigger toe rail ($100,000), a rock bank below the boardwalk ($200,000), a platform below the present boardwalk to reduce the fall height to under a metre ($338,000), and reclamation to within a metre height ($700,000).

Mr Brown said Doubtless Bay promotions and business groups had consistently asked Mr Carter for written proof that the [NRC] was saying there had to be a safety barrier.

"We'd rather have that $200,000 spent on lighting and extending the boardwalk," he said.

In her report, infrastructure and assets general manager Jacqui Robson recommended the FNDC had no choice but to install a barrier as soon as reasonably practicable. She questioned whether the FNDC would be able to get an amendment "over the line" because the council did not have a good track record as far as the NRC was concerned.

Should the lack of a safety barrier contribute to someone's injury or death, the council could be found to be criminally negligent, she said.