A $1.28 million project to upgrade Russell wharf has been officially completed — but Paihia residents will have to wait until the end of the year before their revamp is ready.
The Russell wharf project was symbolically completed by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones, who applied the last lick of paint, and blessed by Ngāti Manu's Arapeta Hamilton on Friday.
Jones' Provincial Growth Fund contributed $1.11m to the long-overdue upgrade, which was carried out by Bellingham Marine and overseen by council-owned company Far North Holdings (FNH).
Improvements included replacing the low-tide landing steps with floating pontoons, replacing a timber jetty with a concrete pontoon, a new dinghy dock, and an extension at the end of the wharf for more space and better flow for passengers.
With 850,000 ferry passengers a year Russell wharf was one of the busiest in New Zealand and in great need of improvement, FNH CEO Andy Nock said.
"It's one of the key items of infrastructure that underpins our district's tourism industry and the wider economy so the significance of the PGF's investment cannot be underestimated," he said.
The PGF also helped pay for wharf upgrades in Paihia and Opua, investing a total of $5.77m in the three facilities.
In Paihia the fund gave $3.77m towards the $4.7m cost of widening the main walkway to reduce congestion, building a new pier with two extra pontoons, and adding a public dinghy dock. A sewage pump on the fuel jetty will relieve pressure at the Opua pumping station and encourage skippers to pump out holding tanks there instead of at sea.
That contract is expected to be completed by the end of December.
Delays in the Paihia project are thought to have been caused by a shortage of marine contractors due to demand in Auckland ahead of the next America's Cup.
In Opua the PGF has contributed $890,000 to a $1.44m pontoon alongside the wharf designed to help businesses in Opua Marine Park compete in the lucrative superyacht fit-out and maintenance market. It is due to be completed by the end of October.
Jones said the three projects would boost tourism, create jobs and opportunities, diversify the Far North economy, and offer more recreation.