Boaties will be able to launch their boats this summer from the south side of Kerikeri Inlet, taking pressure off overcrowded ramps on the northern side.
The project to improve access to Kerikeri Inlet has been under way since 2004 but construction will finally begin in spring. The plan is, however, strongly opposed by a local hapū, which says building the access road will destroy part of a traditional fish trap.
The Far North District Council has committed $840,000 for a sealed road and parking area at Rangitoto, also known as Windsor Landing, off Kerikeri Inlet Rd.
It will provide formal public access for the first time to a concrete boat ramp, jetty and floating pontoon built by a private developer 18 years ago.
The Advocate understands the developer abandoned the land and boat ramp many years ago and now lives in Australia.
The project includes widening a 90m section of Inlet Rd opposite the carpark entrance and dredging the approach to the boat ramp to make it navigable at low tide.
Mayor John Carter said creating access for trailer boats on the south side of Kerikeri Inlet made sense.
"Recreational boating is a very popular activity in the Far North and it's long been a source of frustration to boaties that there's no sheltered public boat ramp on the southern side of the inlet."
The ramp would take pressure off crowded facilities on the north side of the inlet, including Opito Bay. It would also provide easy access for boat owners using nearby swing moorings operated by Northland Regional Council.
Carter said the search for a site began in 2004. Several locations were considered but Windsor Landing was a clear favourite because of the existing ramp, jetty and pontoon.
Consent for the project was granted after a joint hearing by the regional and district councils in 2007. An archaeological authority was also obtained from Heritage New Zealand. The authority was challenged in court by Ian Mitchell, who lives in Hokianga but is descended from Kerikeri hapū Te Uri Taniwha.
The Environment Court upheld the authority but tightened the conditions.
Carter said Heritage NZ and the Environment Court had applied strict rules to protect significant areas. They included a midden that was extensively damaged in the past and two fish traps that were near, but not part of, the ramp development.
Independent archaeologists would monitor and record site work as they progress and hapū members would be notified.
The council's commercial arm, Far North Holdings, would manage the project, which was due to start in September and be ready by summer.
Mitchell, who organised a four-day occupation of the site last summer and declared a rāhui banning any work at the site, said he remained opposed to the project.
Along with other members of the hapū, he planned to stage a protest when archaeological work began and was still exploring other options, including the High Court or the Marine and Coastal Areas Act.
''We're not happy. The statement they put out ignores the rāhui we've called there. They've totally ignored mana whenua,'' he said.
There has never been official public access to the boat ramp but until recently a land owner had allowed locals to drive across his property to reach it. The entrance was not signposted but it was well used in summer.
However, after last summer's controversy, the owner put up a gate and "no entry" signs.