A Pauanui boat ramp and wharf upgrade has doubled from its original budget to reach $1.95 million and still won't be finished by the end of summer.
Just three months after councillors attempted to slash certain project budgets due to Covid-19, an extra $256,000 cost overrun on the upgrade at Royal Billy Point was approved by all but one councillor at the latest full Thames-Coromandel District Council meeting.
Mayor Sandra Goudie said the project had been a "jolly nightmare" as she and councillors heard staff did not know of the need for an archaeological authority before they began works.
Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga area manager mid northern Bev Parslow said TCDC should have known to check.
"Generally councils – including TCDC – are aware that the coastal marine areas are likely to include archaeological features. Additionally, the consenting process for earthworks planned in these areas provides a 'flag' that the area may well have archaeological features, and that an archaeological authority will be required before earthworks can commence."
Describing the wharf as "not pretty" but usable, councillor John Morrissey voted against the additional funding until next year's Ten Year Plan deliberations - the lone dissenting voice.
"Just leave it as it is and programme in the money properly, it's a lot of money," he said.
"This is another classic of, the thing is usable as it is - it's not pretty but it's usable. It's something that should be pushed out and maybe put into the Long Term Plan for consideration next time around. The same with Wentworth Valley [Whangamata] and any other project that runs over cost."
The project stemmed from a presentation to Tairua-Pauanui Community Board by Warren Haycock in 2013 and was then made a priority by the community board through its submission to the Ten Year Plan.
Backers claimed boat queuing was an issue, with the ramp reaching "capacity".
However, the project has been criticised by residents including those overlooking it from Tairua, who say the ramp is one of two in the holiday settlement and only gets busy for two weeks at the peak of summer.
A sandbar that has formed in the harbour has created a narrow channel that caused the rare queuing of boats during peak time.
The council says parts of the Royal Billy Pt structure were reaching 50 years old.
It was due to be completed within five months, in stages, starting from May last year.
"Unfortunately, prior to the work starting on site we had no knowledge of an archaeological remains, a midden," project manager Andrew Boden said. "Heritage New Zealand, who quite honestly surf our website for projects, wrote to us saying we needed an archaeological authority and works were to stop until we got that.
"We met with Heritage New Zealand, negotiated what we could and couldn't do before Labour weekend last year.
"We hadn't got the authority by then and it is quite a process, with an appeal period after. I can quite honestly say our relationship with Heritage New Zealand is improved," he said, to which councillor Sally Christie responded: "It probably needs to."
An archaeological site, under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014, is any place including buildings, structures or shipwrecks, associated with pre-1900 human activity and evidence relating to New Zealand's history that can be investigated using archaeologically.
To do any work that may affect an archaeological site, a person must obtain an authority from Heritage New Zealand beforehand.
The act provides for substantial penalties for unauthorised destruction or modification but Heritage NZ said no action was necessary against TCDC.
Mr Boden said after being instructed to do so, a search found nothing around the concrete ramp area in the harbour.
With Labour weekend looming last year, blocks were put in to give access to the pontoon where people catch the Tairua-Pauanui ferry and these remain on site.
"The additional funding I'm a bit embarrassed to ask for here is to install the final span of the bridge which is on site, and paid for, to take the concrete blocks away and finish it and we would have an archaeologist on site to make sure we don't upset the area," he told councillors at the meeting on September 15.
"Heritage New Zealand are an entity who operate under an act of Parliament. I got invited to meet the archaeologists and the last person I met was their lawyer, who is incumbent in their offices. They are a power to be reckoned with, and we are to give them all the respect they are entitled to."
Work involved replacing the floating wharf structure and aluminium access bridge, removing three sections of the access walkway and widening and replacing it further west, removing the boat ramp and timber wall and constructing a new, wider ramp with a longer timber wall.
Former board chairman Bob Renton, who was on the project working group, said TCDC moved the jetty without the working group's knowledge, adding to the cost when Heritage NZ came in.
"It was set out at a different place to what was originally planned and the issue was the cost. I don't understand why TCDC doesn't engage Heritage New Zealand prior to starting work."
South Eastern ward councillor Terry Walker, currently on the Tairua-Pauanui board, says costings for specialist pilings work had to be re-priced and increased when the America's Cup was announced.
"The price did accelerate quite unexpectedly. Heritage New Zealand have added to it, and we just want to complete this project."
The budget was originally $1.1m but when the project went to tender, the closest tender to the budget price was $600,000 over.
The council's project team then split the project into three components with stage 1 for the wharf pontoon and access bridge, stage 2 for wharf access walkway, and stage 3 for the boat ramp and soldier wall.
"As the tenders for stage 1 was once again too high, these were rejected."
Stage 1 - the wharf pontoon and access bridge - was done by Trojan Marine Services from Tairua, under TCDC staff supervision. Stage 2 was awarded to BridgeIT NZ and stage 3 to EPL Construction of Whangamata.
Total Marine from Auckland were the designers of the project in consultation with the project working group, the council confirmed.