A decision about a permanent fix for the slip-damaged Mauao base track has been put on hold for now.
A Tauranga City Council committee voted unanimously today to let the issue lie on the table while alternatives - including some options that had been previously dismissed - were more thoroughly investigated.
There was little discussion of the options presented in the meeting for moving forward with the design the council planned on: Replacing the slipped section with a 350m boardwalk on the beach that would be resilient to future slips.
Cost estimates for that option, however, have blown out by millions from the $2.2m approved in June 2017, of which about $640,000 has been spent so far.
It would also require the removal of two pohutukawa trees estimated to be 125 to 150 years old.
Estimates presented yesterday pegged the total cost of that option at $5.2m to $6.8m.
Mount Maunganui Residents, Ratepayers and Retailers Association representative Andrew Hollis told the meeting the costs were "ludicrous" and there were cheaper options, including reinstating the old track section.
"A new track is a nice to have but certainly not a reasonable solution."
Elected officials also baulked at the increase, with Councillor Catherine Stewart saying the proposed work seemed like "overkill".
Their discussion instead focused on the feasibility of other remediation options identified in a June 2017 report by engineering consultants Tonkin and Taylor.
Options discussed included reinstatement - whether by a bridge or by cutting further into the cliff face - or building a new track above the old one.
Experts in engineering, archaeology and consenting flagged several potential issues.
Heritage New Zealand senior archaeologist Rachel Darmody said there was a pā near the slip site and the council would not get authority for any option that cut through it.
She said Mauao was a listed wahi tapu site (sacred to Māori) and consent for the council's boardwalk plan had gone to the highest level of Heritage New Zealand for a decision.
Councillor John Robson said the council should not make decisions based on a two-year-old report based only on a visual assessment of the site.
Councillor Steve Morris said the tangata whenua owners of the maunga should be at the table for the discussion about other options.
Mayor Greg Brownless said more work was also needed to identify alternative funding sources as the track was of regional and national importance and used by locals and visitors alike.
Hollis told the Bay of Plenty Times he was happy with the council's decision to pause and think.
The base track attracted nearly 385,000 visitors in the year to June 2018.
• April 2017: Track damaged and partially closed after a slip during ex-Cyclone Debbie
• June 2017: Tonkin and Taylor presented five remediation options, the council chose one to progress and allocated $2.2m funding.
• July 2017: Stairs open over the slip site as a temporary measure, full loop reopens.
• July 2018: Council submits resource consent application for permanent boardwalk
• June 2019: New cost estimates presented to council.