A contractor is being sought to complete stage two of the Whanganui Port redevelopment - the rebuild of wharf two - with dredging equipment also being sourced.
Last week the Chronicle reported ratepayers will be footing a $19 million bill to cover a projected shortfall in Whanganui District Council’s portion of Te Pūwaha - the city’s port redevelopment project.
The money has been added to the council’s budget through debt funding to be paid off over the next 20 to 25 years.
Port chairman Mark Petersen said there was a projected shortfall for the entire project, the Government was open to discussing the scope of stage three once construction of the first two was completed.
“Since the initial funding agreement was established in 2020, we have seen a significant increase in costs, especially in relation to steel and civil construction costs in general,” he said.
“These inflationary pressures are something which is not unique to this project and have been experienced across the whole sector.
“We’ve also seen an expansion in our scope of works as we now recognise that the repair of the newest wharf is no longer feasible and instead rebuilding of the wharf is required.”
He said the initial business case for the project was made six years ago.
“Only three years later in 2020, the retaining wall lagging adjacent against the Victory Shed started to fail in multiple areas, which also required the Victory Shed and the extension building to be demolished.
“The wharf is now failing in multiple areas and has been assessed as unrepairable.”
Earlier this year, Te Pūwaha representatives, the Whanganui District Council and the Whanganui Port met with then-Minister of Regional Development Kiri Allan to discuss the projected increases.
Te Pūwaha project director Hayden Turoa attended the meeting.
“It was a positive outcome with the Crown mindful of the value their investment will have for our region,” he said.
“We are already seeing the benefits with a value-for-money procurement approach that has also led to subcontracting out to local small businesses - from electricians to engineers, accommodation providers and security.”
Port project director Phil Wardale said the team and its Te Pūwaha partners were “working tirelessly” to make sure costs were managed prudently.
Te Pūwaha is a collaboration between Whanganui District Council, Whanganui Port, Horizons Regional Council, Q-West Boat Builders, Te Mata Pūau and the Whanganui District Employment Training Trust.
The total investment in Te Pūwaha is over $62.85m, with $31.8 m coming from central government.
“To date, our procurement strategy has enticed smaller regional-based contractors to work on the port and we hope that the stage two works will follow the benefits that have been seen in the stage one works,” Wardale said.
“These are currently underway with a budget of $13m.”
He said a staged approach to procurement had resulted in cost savings, with costs for stage one less than those projected by the project’s quantity surveyor.
Stage one works were “progressing to programme”, with the more significant tubular steel piling works expected to be completed on time and ahead of the Christmas shutdown, Wardale said.
“We’ve also been focused on completion of the essential dredging of the port basin ahead of the peak summer season to accommodate vessels using the Wharf St boat ramp.
“The spring weather conditions have resulted in significant sedimentation during the westerly wind events, which will see the port team working to clear the sediment over the next three weeks in the lead up to Christmas,” Wardale said.
Whanganui District Council chief executive David Langford said he was mindful of the project’s funding and any potential impacts on ratepayers.
“This is a hugely important project for our city and has the full support of council,” he said
“While the ratepayer provision is a contractual backstop required under the Te Pūwaha project funding agreement with central government, we are confident the Government recognises the impact of cost inflationary pressures from key infrastructure projects like this on regional ratepayers.
“We hope this region will benefit from the new coalition Government’s infrastructure funds and we are keen to discuss this with relevant ministers, as the port and its redevelopment has been a number one infrastructure project for this region.”
Te Pūwaha project chairwoman Kahureremoa Aki said the negotiation of additional central government funding would be “led from the centre of the project”.
“Te Puwaha is about coming together as a collective, and that collective demonstrates that hapū, iwi and community leadership lies at the heart of the successful delivery of the Crown’s investment thus far.
“It will ensure further successful delivery, with a continued focus on care and enhancement of outcomes for the awa and its communities.”