Despite a wet and windy start to the day's proceedings, last Friday's official opening of Mangōnui's Waterfront Development Project went off without a hitch.
Dozens of locals, as well as representatives from Kenana Marae, Far North District Council, the Mangōnui Waterfront Facilities Working Group and construction workers gathered in the rain at the opening event, followed by an informal get-together at the famous Mangonui Pub.
Construction of the $3.1 million project has been several months in the making, delivering 364m of new boardwalk, a new jetty and pontoon, swim steps, lighting, a new 200m gravel pathway, and upgrades to the Lions Carpark.
The Mangōnui Waterfront Development project is the culmination of five years of work carried out by the Mangōnui Waterfront Facilities Working Group, with input from Kenana Marae.
Far North Holdings managed the project, with United Civil Construction and local subcontractors carrying out the works.
Funding for the project was announced in 2020 by former Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones as part of the Government's Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
Funding of $1.75m was secured through the Provincial Growth Fund, with the remaining $1.4m funded by Far North District Council.
Jones thanked the community for its input and support of the project, and said it was great to see people now able to enjoy the new facilities.
"The investment is positive for the community and grows the attractiveness of Far North. Along with the new Papakawau culvert, Mangōnui has had an overdue boost," Jones said.
"No other Northern harbour has this quality of infrastructure and safe swimming access for children.
"Full marks to Mangōnui stalwart Eddie Aicken and his team for driving this great result.
"A fitting legacy to the joint efforts of local government and the former Provincial Growth fund."
Jones said while he believed the construction crew had delivered a robust asset, he also felt it was over-engineered and it was important council decision-makers procured locally.
"And not rely on out-of-town engineers that seem to think our Far North district is a foreign country."
Mangōnui Waterfront Project working group lead Eddie Aicken explained how the project had started out as a community-led conversation, with people both for and against the development.
He said the end outcome was a project he felt everyone could be proud of.
"I want to thank everyone who was involved in this project," Aicken said.
"The working group has been working on this since 2016, and what we've got here today is pretty damn good I think.
"None of this would have happened either without the financial joint venture between funds secured by Shane Jones and the Far North District Council.
"We've also had great local input from local iwi and Kenana Marae who have been great partners throughout this process."
Aicken also made special mention of community member Far North Holdings project manager Mark Osborne, who he said had worked tirelessly to get the project off the ground.
Far North councillor Felicity Foy spoke on behalf of FNDC and said the new waterfront development was a prize for the community.
"This is the result of a real community effort and you've now got an amazing asset which the community can enjoy for many generations to come."
Kenana Marae kaumatua Steve Lloyd and former Mangōnui local Peter Wilkinson reminisced about their childhood growing up in the Far North coastal township.
Lloyd said it was wonderful to see the new facility and it was an asset to the area.
"This is such a huge improvement on what was here before," Lloyd said.
"Nothing has really changed about the harbour, but they've just beautified it for the people to enjoy."
Wilkinson described how some of the Māori tamariki (children) from Hihi would row across the harbour to get to the area where the new jetty lay.
He said he would never forget the sound of their waiata (songs) as they rowed their boats to get to Mangōnui Primary School.
The project was officially due to be completed by late February, however, according to Far North Holdings general manager Chris Galbraith, issues with timber supplies and Covid-19 related disruptions meant the project had been delayed.
Local company OTO Construction was brought on board earlier this year to help with the construction of the swim steps, kerbing, concrete work and handrail for the boardwalk.
A narrow window of time to pour concrete during low tide meant the OTO Construction team would frequently have to work submerged in water, battling the tide in order to prepare the concrete foundations for the swim steps.