Kaipara District Council is inviting members of the community to have their say on the design for a new pontoon in Dargaville - but some are already questioning its need especially when the last one ended up being scrapped.
Construction of the new pontoon is expected to begin in February 2020, and the cost expected to be $500,000 which is being funded by the provincial growth fund as part of the Kaipara Harbour Wharves, Kai & Roads package.
But back in 2012 at a council meeting it was stated that costs to fix the one they already had was just $25,000.
At the time councillors proposed that reinstatement be deferred due to excessive costs and lack of funds. This decision ultimately saw the pontoon end up at the tip.
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A Kaipara District Council spokesperson now says sending it to the tip was the right move because the original pontoon was damaged and rotten due to water leakage and seepage.
"The design of the original pontoon was not strong enough to withstand the wave action so not worth repairing. It ended up being stored at the transfer station, but it was decided it wasn't worth repair so was scrapped."
Earlier this week council held a community meeting to seek feedback on the design for the new pontoon.
Feedback from the meeting was positive and encouraging, says Kaipara Kickstart programme manager Di Bussey.
"It was fantastic to talk to passionate locals and users of the river.
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"We got some great ideas for how people would like to be able to use the wharf and pontoon, and the positive feedback from members of the community showcased the passion there is to use the river more.
"For example someone suggested we make the pontoon accessible for kayaks, or stand up paddleboards, etc. We are looking into that and the other ideas that were raised."
The new design reuses the gang plank from the previous pontoon and the river steel posts from the old pontoon location. The mooring posts for boats however have decayed and would need to be replaced.
However, in a post to social media the majority of people questioned its need in the community.
Charlie Parkinson joked that all it would be good for was, "white baiting and sun bathing".
Lyn Fletcher asked: "Previous attempt at a pontoon lasted how long???"
Steve Kenny questioned whether the pontoon was even necessary. "Is this appropriate considering climate change and the potential flooding that will put the shops and town under water in the next 25-50 years? Not enough detail KDC."
Former Dargaville business forum chairwoman Pat Milich said she felt the money could have been better spent.
"Sounds like a lot of money for a short period and then it will need maintenance in a couple of years. Why not facilitate a wharf extension with the boating club, they have their club house there that could be a cafe as well as iSite and at least this would create extra jobs."
Kaipara District Council PGF project manager Diane Miller says the redesigned pontoon will deliver recreational and commercial benefits to Dargaville.
"It will improve all-tide access to Kaipara Harbour and provide a facility for services such as ferries and freight."
However there are concerns about large freight ships being able to navigate the river.
Warren Suckling, who previously hosted a tourism operation that explained the maritime history of the river, says kauri milling caused sediment to flow into the waterway, meaning it was too narrow and large ships stopped coming to the town many years ago.
"My own knowledge is that it is very badly silted up but due to several factors which is possibly beyond fixing now with the costs of dredging, I think we have to let nature prevail."
Diane Miller says the redesign of the Dargaville pontoon is a key part of Kaipara Wharves, a project that aims to create a water-based transport network on Kaipara Harbour by investing in wharf infrastructure.
People can visit www.kaipara.govt.nz/kickstart, and provide feedback to the team by emailing email@example.com
Ruatuna open day coming up
An important Northland historic building will open its doors to the public in a one-off open day tomorrow.
Ruatuna – a nationally significant Category 1 historic place, and the birthplace of New Zealand's first elected New Zealand-born Prime Minister, Gordon Coates – will be open between 10am and 4pm.
Cared for by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga on behalf of all New Zealanders, Ruatuna is not usually open to visitors. Admission to the property at 441 Tinopai Rd, Matakohe will be free on November 23, however, and people will have the chance to explore the house and grounds on a self-guided tour.
Thanks to the donations of a huge number of supporters – including many Heritage New Zealand members – Ruatuna has been completely re-roofed, and its sagging or broken supports and beams fixed.
"With the recent repairs and maintenance work completed, the open day will provide the perfect opportunity for people to visit this amazing heritage property," said Heritage New Zealand's manager heritage assets north, Natalie McCondach.
"Ruatuna has been cherished for generations of the Coates family and has remained mostly unchanged from its earliest times. It's a treasure trove of stories and collection items spanning over 140 years."
Visitors can make a day of it by exploring other nearby attractions, including Matakohe village with the church, Kauri Museum, historic Totara House and a local cafe.
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