Popular slipway under urgent repair

By John Maslin

Repairs to the busy recreational boat slipway at Wanganui's port will start almost immediately, making good significant damage that happened just before Labour weekend.

The Wanganui District Council's infrastructure and property committee discussed the problem when it met this week and decided that rubble that had collapsed into the slipway would be cleared away first before a more permanent solution is tackled, with some options brought to the table for the next council meeting.

Committee chair Councillor Ray Stevens said a diver would inspect the area as soon as possible and a digger then used to remove the debris. "We identified that risk some time ago, and we were already working on that," Mr Stevens said.

"Next, we'll identify the options that are available in terms of repairs."

Rowan McGregor, council's property manager, said urgent action was required because the fishing season was coming, when often more than 200 boats would use the slipway on a good day.

Coastguard Wanganui spokesman Bill Greening told the meeting there were times when there were three lanes in use on the slipway to handle the number of boats coming and going.

"But the most frightening aspect at the moment is that rubble, much of it submerged, in the turning bay directly in front of the slipway," Mr Greening said.

Damon Wagstaff, commodore of the Wanganui-Manawatu Sea Fishing Club, said one of the club's major tournaments, offering thousands of dollars worth of prizes, is scheduled for early in the New Year and the state of the slipway was a real concern to the club. But Mr Wagstaff said it may not need a lot of money spent on it, suggesting a temporary structure could do the job for this summer at least.

He said he had no doubt the club would be prepared to offer some financial assistance and manpower for a more permanent and sturdy structure.

Councillor Randhir Dahya said he was disappointed the slipway had been allowed to reach this stage of disrepair. "If we had carried out proper maintenance in the last 15 years then we probably wouldn't be at this point," Mr Dahya said.

An engineer's report recommended building a boardwalk type structure, costing between $40,000 and $50,000.

That would also involve spending another $20,000 on stabilising the riverbank.

The council's holding company is looking at long-term solutions, including upgrading the existing slipway, moving it to another location and looking at a charge for boaties using the slipway.

Mr Wagstaff said a user-pays system was an option that needed to be considered.

He said about half the boats using the slipway were from out-of-town and he said very few of them would be spending any money in the city when they visited for a day's fishing.

The committee has recommended repairs to the slipway capped at no more than $75,000.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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