Plans to build a large new boat harbour on Whakatāne River will be pitched to the Government's Provincial Growth Fund.

The proposal is to build the boat harbour on the land between the Whakatāne Bridge and Keepa Rd, a block known as Rangitāiki 28B No 22, which is currently used for growing maize.

Whakatāne District Council and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa have created a business case for the new harbour and this will be used in an application to the Government's Provincial Growth Fund next month.

Mayor Tony Bonne said the project was still in its early stages.

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As the proposal stood, the first stage of the project would have about 70 berths, with larger berths for commercial operators, and could include a Travelift.

The existing wharf would be used by tourism businesses to pick up and drop off visitors. The wooden part of the wharf near the fishing club would likely be demolished to allow that part of the river to return to its natural state.

The harbour would be land-based as Bonne said any river-based structure would be unlikely to get consent.

Being land-based meant the harbour had also found favour with tangata whenua.

"This is a win-win for everyone."

Bonne said Whakatāne was "well overdue" a new wharf and if this application was successful, it would be a "game-changer" for the whole Whakatāne district.

"It makes so much sense. A better harbour will give protection to boats in all conditions. It's an amazing solution.

"I'm so excited about it. It's going to unite Māori and Pākehā."

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Bonne said the current wharf had a "huge" waiting list for commercial boats.

"We can't fit them in."

Bonne said the plan had come together quickly.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones visited the town in December and there announced $660,000 in funding for a business case. The completed case would be presented to the government on September 10.

Bonne said if the application was successful, action would happen immediately.

The current landowners would get "great returns" from the harbour and would-be shareholders, Bonne said.

Ngāti Hokopū landowners met to discuss the proposal. Photo / supplied
Ngāti Hokopū landowners met to discuss the proposal. Photo / supplied

In a statement, Rangitāiki 28B No 22 Trust chairman Brian Simpson said, if successful, the project would transform the future of the trust and its ability to support its owners.

"Comparatively, ours is a small Māori land block but we have lots of owners, so generating enough productivity to facilitate meaningful returns can be extremely challenging.

"What we've identified here is an opportunity that will ultimately enable us to provide long-term and holistic benefits that will actually make a considerable impact on the wellbeing of the collective."

Simpson said the project was about far more than money and revenue for the trust and its members.

"We're firmly focused on the opportunity for our humble trust to play a vital role in the Whakatāne marine and tourism sector and what that might mean in terms of leveraging that position to spring-board our rangatahi [youth] into careers in those sectors."

In the statement, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa Chairman Dr Hohepa Mason said the relocation of existing wharf activity to the proposed new site would have a positive effect on the mauri of the Whakatāne River.

"As an iwi, the Whakatāne river is our identity. If the river suffers, so do the people.

"The proposed new location will help to contain wharf activity to a very specific and suitable area, which we hope will eventually restore our ability to access and maintain a relationship with our river."