A popular coastal track in the Bay of Islands which forms part of the national Te Araroa trail will be reopened as soon as possible, the Far North District Council has pledged.
However, even with the council juggling budgets to bring repairs forward, it could take until September before the Paihia-Ōpua walkway is safe to use again.
In December the council blocked access to a wooden boardwalk and bridge south of Te Haumi, near the entrance to the Paihia Top 10 Holiday Park, after an engineer's report found piles supporting the structure had been seriously weakened by rot and marine worms.
The report warned that the bridge could collapse and should be closed immediately.
The section of trail, which crosses a tidal inlet and passes through mangroves, is relatively short but has no safe alternative route.
That means pedestrian access between Ōpua and Te Haumi has effectively been cut off.
Asset and infrastructure manager Andy Finch said closing the boardwalk was necessary but had affected locals and visitors — including walkers on the popular Te Araroa trail from Cape Reinga to Bluff.
''We want it re-opened as soon as possible ... To achieve that, we have re-allocated future funding from our Long Term Plan so that we can get detailed designs underway and completed by the end of February. All going well, we hope to start work in March."
The council was aiming to re-open the track by the end of July but that could be pushed out as far as September due to ongoing problems sourcing building materials and a lack of capacity among contractors to take on new work, especially those with marine construction experience.
In the meantime, he urged track users to be patient and not risk using the boardwalk until it was replaced.
The rest of the Ōpua-Paihia coastal trail would be upgraded over the next two years using funding allocated in the Long Term Plan 2021-31.
While the boardwalk is closed, Te Araroa walkers can take a boat from Paihia to Waikare or catch a passenger ferry to Russell then walk from there to Waikare. However, that route involves a long distance on gravel Waikare Rd.
State Highway 11 between Paihia and Opua is unsuitable for walking due to traffic speeds, poor visibility and a lack of shoulders.
As one of only a few bushwalks where dogs are allowed, the Ōpua-Paihia coastal trail is also popular with pet owners.
Te Araroa - New Zealand's Trail is a continuous 3000km walking track from Cape Reinga to Bluff. Te Araroa is the ultimate Kiwi experience. It can take months to walk the whole thing, or a few hours or days to do a local segment.
Te Araroa is a different kind of trail from traditional back-country tramping tracks. It connects people, towns and cities. The track showcases everything New Zealand has to offer.
Te Araroa starts and finishes on the edges of New Zealand's seas. Along the way, people can explore beaches, volcanoes, mountains, rivers, lakes and valleys.