Parking passes and even a checkpoint leading to Piha to handle crowds have been mooted as the west coast spot prepares for one of the country's biggest ever surfing competitions.

The Piha Pro, taking place over March 16-22, is one of eight venues for the World Surf League's new Challenger Series, and will see top surfers from across the globe battling it out at the black sand beach break in West Auckland.

Organisers are also expecting thousands of spectators, generating an estimated $1.5 million for the local economy, with further potential tourism benefits expected from the 600 million people watching on TV and online.

But the hordes making their way along the only road in - which is narrow, steep and winding - to witness the spectacle and limited parking beachside, are creating logistical headaches for organisers.

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Auckland's west coast town Piha will be hosting the Piha Pro surfing competition from March 16-22. Photo / Supplied
Auckland's west coast town Piha will be hosting the Piha Pro surfing competition from March 16-22. Photo / Supplied

Event director Chris Simpson said they were looking into options such as a park and ride service, a pre-paid parking permit system and a checkpoint before Piha village to limit the numbers of people making their way out to the beach.

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Residents would be exempt, as would various services such as for emergencies.

Simpson said they were still working through the options alongside police and Auckland Transport, with an announcement expected by the end of January.

"We want this event to be here to stay, and so we want to work with the community to find solutions to these issues and still put on a world-class event."

Surf photographer, surfer and Piha resident Craig Levers, who attended a pre-event meeting in December, was "pleasantly surprised" at the broad support from residents.

"Piha is pretty notorious for being bolshy and outspoken, but the overwhelming feeling was positive."

There was some concern about how potential parking and traffic issues, but given it was the first year of three, many residents were open to seeing how it would pan out.

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Levers said there was some disappointment among surfers about giving up their break at South Piha during the best time of the year, but the positives appeared to outweigh the negatives.

"I think there is a degree of realism that this a good surfing venue, near Auckland, and the organisers obviously want to have it close to a large population.

"But our grommets [young surfers] will be stoked to see these top guys and girls surf our waves, plus there are plenty of other places to surf."

Other concerns raised at the meeting were about fishing access for boats, with South Piha being the main launch site and March the peak of the deep sea fishing season, and business for local surf schools being affected.

Simpson said they were working with affected parties to find solutions.

Piha resident and Black Sands accommodation co-owner Julia Woodhouse said from a business perspective the event would likely be "very positive".

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"It is a wonderful opportunity. We need tourism to continue."

Kiwi Ricardo Christie said he was excited about having a top international surfing competition in the country again. Photo / World Surf League
Kiwi Ricardo Christie said he was excited about having a top international surfing competition in the country again. Photo / World Surf League

March was already a busy time but they had seen a small increase in bookings, and many locals were also looking to rent out their homes during the event.

"It will also be wonderful for the cafes and other food places.

"Piha is a very special place, but I think this can only be a positive thing - shine a positive light on this divine little town."

Fiona Anderson, who runs Piha Campground, said there had been "huge demand" since the event was confirmed in September.

Piha could handle large crowds, she said, but with increasing numbers of tourists, local facilities needed to be upgraded.

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This week reports emerged of campers defecating in the sand dunes because the village's public facilities were either dirty or closed too early.

Anderson said this issue needed to be addressed ahead of the competition, and a short-term fix would be portaloos.

"There has been tremendous work in promoting Auckland and Piha, but a failure to invest in the infrastructure."

Waitākere Ranges Local Board member and longtime Piha resident Sandra Coney said despite the challenges of hosting such a large event in a "small and remote place" there was a lot excitement.

Piha was the birthplace of New Zealand surfing, with Californian surf lifesavers arriving in the 1950s, converting locals to the sport and teaching them how to shape boards during their stay.

"People here are really proud of our surfing and the waves here, and it will be interesting to see how some of the top surfers get on."

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Top New Zealand surfer Paige Hareb, of Taranaki, is likely to feature in the Piha Pro. Photo / File
Top New Zealand surfer Paige Hareb, of Taranaki, is likely to feature in the Piha Pro. Photo / File

Residents also raised concerns about the state of the road leading to the beach, and it being able to handle high volumes of traffic.

Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan said minor repairs on the roads leading into Piha would be completed prior to the event, but the major upgrade works to Piha Rd and Seaside Rd would start after the event.

The Piha Pro was supported by Auckland Council's tourism arm Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Excitement is building in the small Auckland west coast town ahead of the Piha Pro surfing competition in March. Photo / Supplied
Excitement is building in the small Auckland west coast town ahead of the Piha Pro surfing competition in March. Photo / Supplied

Ateed destination general manager Steve Armitage said they'd invested in the event hoping to attract more surfers to the area in the long term.

"We want to put the spotlight on the wider Auckland region, and in particular Piha.

"Surfers tend to travel a lot, and earn well, so we are hoping the event will prompt more to think about coming to New Zealand."

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The Piha Pro

The Piha Pro will see the WSL return to New Zealand shores for the first time in more than five years, with its last event a women's 6000-rated Qualifying Series (QS) event held in Taranaki.

Running just a week before the elite Championship Tour's first stop on the Gold Coast, organisers are hoping to attract some of the biggest names in the sport.

Inspirational Hawaiian surfer Bethany Hamilton has already been confirmed, and seven-time women's world champion Stephanie Gilmore has expressed interest.

It is understood discussions have been held with arguably the greatest surfer of all time, 11-time men's world champion Kelly Slater.

Several top Kiwis are also in the qualifying circuit, including Ricardo Christie, Billy Stairmand, Paige Hareb, Ella Williams, and Piha's own Elliot Paerata-Reid.

The last major international surfing event held in Piha was the ISA World Junior Championships, which saw current world champion Gabriel Medina take out the u18 boys division.

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