As two of Far North boardwalks close due to safety concerns, a third major boardwalk project is nearing completion.
The Mangonui Waterfront Development is expected to be finished by end of February 2022, with more than half of the boardwalk now finished.
The project is funded by $5.56 million from the Far North District Council's Long Term Plan and a $1.5m contribution from the Government's Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
Under the revamp, the existing wooden boardwalk will be extended by around 350 metres from the War Memorial on Waterfront Rd to Tasman St, linking it to a 550m gravel path ending at Māori Point.
The project also includes 40 new car parking spaces, street and boardwalk lighting improvements, extended footpaths, and concrete steps for swimmers at an upgraded jetty, gangway and pontoon.
It will also see an extension of wharf areas and additional pontoons for fishing and charter vessels, plus a 4km walking and cycling track around the harbour.
Part of the extension work involves installing piles at the water's edge, attaching joists to the piles, then a layer of wooden decking on top of the joists to create the boardwalk.
The size of the project's piles recently drew criticism from local engineer and former Far North Mayor Wayne Brown, who said the project size and cost was "excessive".
"It's not that I'm not against the project, it's a nice thing to have, I just think it's too expensive," Brown said.
"They didn't really need those piles and the whole thing has cost more than twice or three times the amount of what it should cost.
"I mean, if you want to buy a new car, you wouldn't go buying something for half a million when you can get something for $60k."
The project is the culmination of five years work by the Mangōnui Waterfront Facilities Working Group, which the council said included input from Kenana Marae.
Kenana Marae spokesman Tiger Tukariri said the hapū was currently working on ideas for their input into stage two of the development.
"We've recently held a wananga on the next stage and have talked about providing some cultural areas involving carvings, pou and other significant pieces," Tukariri said.
"It's important to us to continue to keep the relationship with the community strong and to stay informed around the decision-making of what's going on around the rohe."
According to FNDC, a community survey in 2019 found strong support for plans to extend the boardwalk, increase parking and install a gangway and pontoon at the circular wharf.
Far North Mayor John Carter said the project, managed by Far North Holdings Limited, would increase Mangōnui's waterfront recreation area.
Mayor Carter added the safety improvements would also be substantial.
"There was a danger that people parking along the waterfront could accidentally step off the road and into the sea," Carter said.
"This will no longer be a problem with the new three-metre-wide boardwalk and a safety barrier."
In September 2020, an 89-year-old woman died after falling into the water from Waterfront Rd.
A coroner's report released in November 2021 found that the fall was caused by a medical event.
The coroner did not recommend any new safety features for the area because of work now under way to extend the boardwalk.
Meanwhile, FNDC has also announced two separate boardwalks have been closed due to urgent safety concerns.
A small section of a popular coastal walking track linking Ōpua to Paihia was closed last week due to support piles being weakened by rot and marine worms.
A wooden boardwalk and bridge that span a tidal inlet and mangroves was boarded up last week after an engineer's report confirmed the structure could collapse under weight.
The boardwalk and bridge are located south of Te Haumi Beach near the entrance to the Paihia Top 10 Holiday Park off State Highway 10.
The structure begins a section of the coastal track that links to English Bay.
Andy Finch, FNDC general manager – infrastructure and asset management, said the coastal walk was a popular activity for locals and visitors.
He said it also formed part of the Te Araroa Trail that linked Cape Reinga to Bluff.
"The closure affects a very small part of the coastal track, but the timing is very unfortunate with the busy holiday season about to start," Finch said.
"The risk of the structure collapsing is high, especially with more people and groups of people likely to be using the track in coming weeks, so public safety must always come first."
Finch said there was no viable temporary fix for the piles, which meant the boardwalk and bridge would likely remain closed for some months.
Signs explaining the closure and advising of alternative routes would be posted as soon as possible in the new year.
"There are several alternative access points to the track that walkers can use to complete the Ōpua leg of the trail. For example, from English Bay Rd."
Finch added the Ōpua-Paihia track was prone to subsidence and storm damage and that FNDC was planning to upgrade its entire length next year.
Meanwhile, a walking track that accesses Charlie's Rock waterfall is also closed due to recent storm damage.
The waterfall is a popular swimming spot for Kerikeri locals. Finch said permanent repairs to the track would be made early in 2022.