Bay of Islands boaties frustrated by congested boat ramps around Kerikeri will soon have another option for launching their boats.
A jetty and boat ramp were built by a private developer at Windsor Landing, off Inlet Rd on the south side of Kerikeri Inlet, in the 1990s.
When the developer abandoned the land the ramp was acquired by the Far North District Council, but with no public access its use was limited to a few locals who'd drive across an adjoining private property.
With existing boat ramps on the northern side of the inlet under pressure, the council decided in 2004 to create public access to Windsor Landing, also known as Rangitoto.
Work finally got under way in late 2019.
Chris Galbraith, general manager of council-owned company Far North Holdings, said sealing of the new access road and car park was due to start any day.
He expected the boat ramp would open in mid-May.
The next stage of the project would involve landscaping, fencing and improving the boat ramp's surface.
Cultural elements, including a pouwhenua (carved post) and a Waharoa (gateway), would also be added.
A 350m-long unsealed section of Inlet Rd, from Edmonds Rd to the car park entrance, had been widened but would not be sealed.
It was, however, listed in the council's Long Term Plan as a future unsubsidised seal extension.
Galbraith said the latter stages of the project had gone well.
''The neighbours have been great and the result will be anticipated by many.''
It had been built largely to budget — the council committed $840,000 in 2019 — but delayed by what Galbraith described as ''various challenges over the past year''.
He was referring to protests and an occupation by hapū Te Uri Taniwha, which opposed the project because construction of the car park involved filling in a finger of the inlet which functioned as part of a traditional fish trap.
The hapū held public meetings at the site, won the support of some locals, declared a rāhui and staged an occupation.
Work resumed, however, after the hapū Ngāti Rēhia, which said it had mana whenua over the site, came out in support of the project.
Hapū leader Nora Rameka said she backed the plan because Bay of Islands residents were losing access to the sea due to the property boom and developers locking the public out of the coast.
The development was approved by Heritage New Zealand's Māori Committee.
Ian Mitchell, of Te Uri Taniwha, lost an appeal against the approval in the Environment Court but the judge ordered the project conditions be tightened up.
The court found the site's middens and fish traps had already been damaged in recent decades, and said there was no evidence that filling in part of the inlet would affect functionality of the fish trap.