A recommendation on the site of a proposed development crucial to Coromandel Peninsula's growing aquaculture industry will be put before council members today for a long-awaited decision.
Thames-Coromandel District Council officers have recommended council members choose the Sugarloaf Wharf, at Te Kouma Harbour, south of Coromandel town, as the site for a multimillion-dollar, industry-funded wharf extension.
An order paper being tabled today also suggests moving ahead with the next step of the project - putting together a detailed business plan for the Sugarloaf option, which would include designs, costs, environmental assessments, management plans and a resource consent application.
It comes as projections for Coromandel's aquaculture industry predict its annual output of mussels and oysters will have doubled to 60,000 tonnes by 2025, bringing more than $60 million to the region and creating more than 350 new jobs there. By the same time, the region's finfish industry is forecast to generate $45 million nationally, creating 473 new jobs.
Thames-Coromandel Mayor Glenn Leach described the forecast growth as "humungous".
"We are pretty mindful of the fact it's something we consider good for our region."
Estimates for the cost of an expansion of the wharf were around the $3 million mark when factors such as roading and consenting were included, and its size would depend on the number of berths.
But Mr Leach said it would come at no cost to the district's ratepayers.
Some Te Kouma residents have objected to the proposal because of the effects they say it would have on Waipapa Bay.
The Waipapa Bay Protection Society wrote to the council this month voicing its opposition.
It said an "ongoing total lack of proper management" by the council already meant the Sugarloaf was continuing to be used in a way that contravened the operational management plan.
"Such ongoing misuse is to the detriment of the ecology of Waipapa Bay as well as to the character and amenity values of the area as experienced by both users of the Sugarloaf facility and the residents of properties in the vicinity," the society said.
But the council says its recommendation was made after analysis of dozens of reports and submissions.
"No matter what we do, my job says I can't please everybody all of the time, but the way we have done this with a robust methodology and it's over to the council to sign off on where it's going to go - and I wait with bated breath," said Mr Leach.
The council's economic development manager, Benjamin Day, said officers could not have done a more comprehensive job to enable councillors to make a decision.
"We aren't even at the resource consent phase; this amount of work is just about choosing a location," he said. "If the council proceeds with the project we then need to develop an even more thorough business plan to work out things like the financial arrangements and engineering options, then we can apply for a consent."
Expanding the wharf would also solve existing problems at the site, such as overcrowding, he said.
"I am confident with a stronger operational management plan at a new facility, an expanded Sugarloaf will bring more harmony between recreational boaties, the aquaculture industry and local residents."
If the Thames-Coromandel District Council approves a multimillion-dollar expansion at Sugarloaf Wharf today:
* A business plan would be developed over the winter months outlining specific design and engineering options, including costs.
* By the end of the year, the council would make a decision on the plan and apply for a resource consent.
* If the consent is granted, the time-frames for the construction of the wharf would be dependent on the resource consent process or appeals and when the industry decides it wants to proceed with construction.