Bay of Islands boaties can finally access a boat ramp on the south side of Kerikeri Inlet almost 20 years after it was built.
The new access road and boat trailer parking at Windsor Landing, also known as Rangitoto, were blessed by members of local hapū Ngāti Rēhia and Te Uri Taniwha at dawn on Monday.
The boat ramp was built in the early 2000s by a private developer for what was to have been an exclusive subdivision.
After the developer disappeared and the consent lapsed, the ramp passed into Far North District Council ownership.
However, with no public access, its use was limited to locals who had permission to drive across a neighbouring property. Lack of parking and shallow water further limited its use.
The search for public water access on the south side of the inlet started in 2004; consents for the Rangitoto project were issued in 2007.
It was delayed by the global financial crisis then by legal action and an occupation by members of Te Uri Taniwha, because a mangrove inlet forming part of a centuries-old fish trap had to be filled in to create the carpark.
Construction resumed late last year after Ngāti Rēhia gave the project its blessing, saying people were increasingly being locked out of the Bay of Islands by the coastal property boom.
About 40 people, mostly local residents, attended Monday's pre-dawn blessing.
The facility includes a new access road, parking for 18 boat trailers and seven cars, a re-surfaced ramp, and the existing jetty and floating pontoon.
It also features two carvings by Ricky Ashby representing his Te Uri Taniwha ancestor Kopiri and his wife Whakapū.
The project was managed by council-owned company Far North Holdings.
General manager Chris Galbraith said it had involved challenges, a lot of emotion, some pain, and ''amazing'' neighbours.
The land-based part of the project had cost $850,000, which included widening a section of Inlet Rd, while $110,000 had been spent on dredging.
Council chief executive Shaun Clarke said a study a few years ago found the Bay of Islands had 2900 trailer boats but just 48 trailer parking spaces.
Access to much of the coast was controlled by private landowners and, until Monday, there was not one public boat ramp between Kerikeri and Waitangi.
Clarke said he was grateful to those who had forced a halt to the project, ensuring the council took extra care around a midden and a fish trap once work resumed.
''Not a single thing the council does has unanimous support ... But this is about getting ordinary people onto the water in numbers,'' he said.
Despite concerns from some members of Te Uri Taniwha, Ngāti Rēhia kuia Nora Rameka said she was persuaded to support the project after visiting the boat ramp shortly after last year's lockdown.
She found the area crowded with families gathering food but they could only get there by crossing private property.
''That's why I tautoko this completely,'' she said.
Before sunrise kaikarakia Hone Mihaka recited a whakapapa linking those present with the Te Uri Taniwha ancestors represented by the carvings Te Kōpiri and Te Whakapū, and spoke of ''the ancient bones that still lie in the area's caves and wāhi tapu''.
He was joined in the karakia by Bernard Makoare and Kipa Munro, who said: ''Though we knew this spot was beautiful before, now the beauty is shared with many.''
The boat ramp is about 10km east of Kerikeri's town centre on Inlet Rd, 400m after the seal ends.