A group hoping to build a new railway station and offer steam train rides from Kawakawa to Opua will have to wait at least until next month to find out if it has been given the green light.
Council-owned company Far North Holdings, on behalf of the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway Trust, is seeking resource consent to build a railway station at a site known as Colenso's Triangle on the Kawakawa River about 1.5km south of Opua.
The original railway line, started in 1868 to cart coal from the mines in Kawakawa, ran all the way to Opua wharf but development along the waterfront means that is no longer possible. Instead the trust wants to build a terminus at Colenso's Triangle including a turntable for turning trains, a cafe, bike hire shop and events room. At present trains run only as far as Taumarere, about 7km short of Opua.
Far North Holdings is also applying for consent to build a barge dock in the same area for use by marine farmers. Currently oyster farmers use a dock in Opua's marine industrial area but the expansion of Opua Marina means a new site has to be found.
Controversially, the new barge dock would require reclaiming an area of seabed next to a beach. The plan would also require a new road to be built for homes on Marina Rise currently accessed via Beaufort St.
Wetland reclamation is also required for the turntable and railway sidings. Another wetland area, south of the station, would be restored and enhanced.
The site of the proposed railway station and marine farming facility is owned by Far North Holdings and is used as a supply depot.
The combined Far North District and Northland Regional council resource consent hearing was held at Opua Cruising Club on April 3-4. Of the 240 submissions received by the two councils, about 189 supported the application with 31 opposed and 20 mixed.
Reasons for opposing the plans included loss of public access to the shore, environmental effects of reclamation, the loss of a wetland, proximity to cultural sites, and failure to protect areas important to Ngai Manu and other hapu. Some questioned why the two projects had been combined in one application.
Those who supported the plan said it would boost tourism and the economy, contribute to the reinvigoration of Kawakawa, help preserve Northland's railway heritage and provide a much-needed marine farm dock.
After two days of evidence commissioner Rob Lieffering called an adjournment to give Far North Holdings time to reply to issues raised by submitters.
The company has until May 1 to respond. If Mr Lieffering deems he has all the information needed he will close the hearing and release his decision within 15 working days. If no new information is needed his decision should be known by the end of May.
He can also make a partial decision, allowing parts of the proposal and refusing others.