A plan to reclaim part of Kerikeri Inlet for trailer parking and a new boat ramp has divided a Bay of Islands community.
Last month, the Far North District Council announced it was planning to upgrade boating facilities at Rangitane, on the northern side of Kerikeri Inlet, by building a double-width boat ramp, replacing a dilapidated jetty, and reclaiming about 7000sq m of seabed to make space for 12 regular car parks and 16 trailer parks.
The project, which will be managed by council-owned company Far North Holdings (FNH), is expected to cost $3.7 million with $2.5m from the Government's Covid-19 Recovery Fund and $1.2m from the council.
The plan is backed by local hapū Ngāti Rēhia, which says the coastal development boom has made it increasingly difficult for ordinary people to access the water, and a relatively new group called Rangitane Recreation Association.
Rangitane Residents Association, however, says the council has picked the wrong location and won't back out because that would mean losing Government funding.
Treasurer Jeff Christensen said 16 trailer parks built at ''huge cost'' on reclaimed land wouldn't be enough for what would be one of the best boat ramps in the Kerikeri area.
Once the carpark was full, vehicles and boat trailers would spill over on to roadsides and the nearby Rangitane Reserve.
The current ramp was ''self-limiting'' because it couldn't be used at low tide by big boats, he said.
''There's no doubt the Far North needs a facility like this but FNH needs to find a place where they can put at least 100 car parks. There's no future-proofing in this. It's just wasteful of taxpayer and ratepayer dollars.''
He was also concerned about increased traffic, especially vehicles towing large trailers, on narrow, residential Rangitane Loop Rd.
Christensen said FNH should rebuild the broken jetty with some of the funding — ''the community absolutely wants that'' — then look for a more suitable greenfields site for the boat ramp and parking, which was future-proof and not in the middle of a residential area.
The group had suggested other sites with plenty of space and deep water close to shore but FNH had not been receptive, he said.
Association chairman John Neison said the funding from the Government was for ''shovel-ready'' projects but the only part of the plan that already had a consent was rebuilding the broken jetty.
Locals built the jetty in the 1990s and the association held the consent for its renewal.
Secretary Marie Byrne said she was concerned that increased traffic — especially at dawn and dusk when fishers tended to head out — could lead to more kiwi deaths.
The roadsides around Rangitane were already dotted with crosses where kiwi had been run over, she said.
FNH general manager Chris Galbraith said the size of the reclamation had been reduced due to residents' concerns, cutting the number of trailer parks from 22 in the original plan to 16.
He agreed that at peak times there wouldn't be enough space for every boat trailer but 150m down the road was a ''very suitable'' piece of land for overflow parking, on an older reclamation next to Rangitane Reserve.
Tutukaka had a similar arrangement with an area of reserve roped off for overflow parking for one to two months a year.
Galbraith said an alternative site had been suggested for a greenfields development but it was 20km from town, on an unsealed road, in an ecologically sensitive area and not backed by hapū.
With growing demand for maritime facilities, FNH was taking a ''selected approach'' to improving existing facilities, he said.
''The current facility at Rangitane in unsafe — the ramp is steep and there's no parking — and what we've planned is quite appropriate and workable.''
Rangitane Recreation Association, a residents association splinter group formed in 2019, backs FNH's plans.
Vice-chairman Ray Hatch said the group had collected 400 signatures supporting the plan in the local area, up to Kapiro Rd, and 1700 in the wider Bay of Islands.
Secretary Jackie Hatch said she was happy with the proposed site and reclamation, her only quibble being that the reclaimed area wouldn't be big enough for the number of people who'd be keen to use it.
''I'd challenge anyone to find a better site that is accessible.''
Any environmental concerns would be addressed as part of the consent process, she said.
''We don't want it for ourselves, this is for the next generation.''