Work is due to start within weeks on a major new sports hub catering to the booming Bay of Islands population.
Sports facilities have been bursting at the seams for more than a decade in Kerikeri and Waipapa as infrastructure struggles to keep up with demand.
Rugby and netball are well served by the sports complex next to Kerikeri's Heritage Bypass but football has outgrown its base at BaySports in Waipapa, Northland's biggest cricket club — and its only all-female team — plays on a high-school field, rugby league players get changed in a car park, hockey players travel to Kaikohe or Whangārei, and gymnasts shift from one temporary premises to another.
There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel for those codes, with the Far North District Council granted consent late last week for the new Te Puawaitanga sports hub on State Highway 10 just south of Waipapa.
Stage 1 of the project is funded by a $2 million Provincial Growth Fund grant and $2m from the council. The site, a 44ha farm, was bought by the council in 2020 for $4.98m.
Stage 1 will include five sports fields, toilets and parking for almost 400 vehicles.
Deputy Mayor Ann Court, who chairs the Bay of Islands Sports Hub Working Group, said the entrance had already been built and lighting had been installed.
She expected earthworks would start within a fortnight, with stage 1 ready for the summer sports season.
James Coleman, Far North manager for Northern Region Football, said even in 2011 — when the search for more space began — Kerikeri Football Club was short of five playing fields.
The club was now the biggest in Northland, with 430 members.
If all went to plan, junior and youth teams would start playing on the new fields in the 2022/23 season.
Club members were cautious because a new sports ground had been talked about for so long, Coleman said.
''But there is real optimism and excitement," he said.
Kerikeri's rugby league team, the Makos, has been without changing or club rooms since a fire damaged the sports pavilion at Kerikeri Domain in 2016.
The lack of facilities made training and hosting other teams tough, club president Tim O'Leary said.
The club continued to train at the Domain and had bought its own floodlights.
Players got changed on the field, used the showers at Kerikeri Community Gym and held after-match functions at the Homestead Tavern.
But O'Leary's biggest concern was that the club couldn't start a junior team without facilities.
Young players couldn't be required to get changed outside in the rain, or be taken to the tavern afterwards because there were no club rooms.
"Our dream is to get the kids involved and get a junior team going, but at the moment we're crippled by a lack of facilities," he said.
Court said Te Puawaitanga's aspirational second stage would include clubrooms, a gymnastics building, an indoor multi-sports facility, extra parking, two more sports fields, cricket wickets, softball diamonds, croquet lawns and a dog training area.
Stage 2 had also been consented but was not yet funded, Court said.
Estimated costs in the council's Long Term Plan were $11m in 2029 and $17m in 2030, well beyond ratepayers' means.
An incorporated society was being set up to raise money and apply for grants.
Not all the 44ha will be required for the sports complex. Suggestions for using the rest of the land have included social housing, commercial development and green space.