An influential Tauranga hapū is backing the controversial project to spend up to $7 million building a harbourside walkway from Memorial Park to the CBD.
Buddy Mikaere said Ngāi Tamarāwaho supported the restoration of the traditional pathway around the harbour and access to the water.
He put the hapū's position to a meeting of the council's city transformation committee, this week, chaired by Larry Baldock, who said changes to Land Transport funding meant the project could attract a subsidy of 75 per cent.
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''It could be another jewel for our city.''
The committee agreed to proceed with engaging with the community on the project. The $40,000 worth of consultation would ''inform'' a decision on whether to proceed to construction.
Mikaere told the Bay of Plenty Times that the untidy and partly eroded state of this section of foreshore meant people had to be keen to do the walk.
''It could do with a decent tidy up and this is a good way to do it.''
His understanding of the project was the walkway would help protect the foreshore from further erosion.
Mikaere said there had been a lot of applications in recent times from people wanting to renew seawalls, including a couple between Memorial Park and The Strand.
He said they were happy to tick-off these projects but in return, they would like to see public access restored along harbour frontages. ''The walkway is part of that.''
Monday's decision was made by only four of the seven members of the committee, with the final decision to be made at the full meeting of the council later this month. Two were absent and councillor Terry Molloy declared an interest and took no part in the debate.
Councillor Molloy explained afterwards that this was because his wife Robyn had asked the council to dust off plans for the walkway in a submission to the council's 2017/18 Annual Plan.
Molloy said an email had subsequently been sent to the council suggesting he had a conflict of interest. The council's chief executive Garry Poole sought legal advice and was told that there was a strong possibility of a conflict.
The advice was based on an identical situation in Wellington where a councillor's partner had made a submission on an issue before the council. The Ombudsman had ruled the councillor had a conflict.
Molloy said that he had previously supported going through the processes required before a final recommendation was put on the walkway. ''You have got to keep an open mind.''
The Sustainable Business Network's Bike Now group spokesman Glen Crowther said a lot of their stakeholders were quite excited about off-road links into the CBD.
He said the Memorial Park to Strand pathway was generally supported by Bike Now but not at the expense of riding roughshod over the feelings of residents.
''The council needed to go through a proper process to see if there are ways to mitigate some of their concerns.''
Crowther said it would be a good route for commuters and had all sorts of recreational possibilities including as a link for families between the Memorial Park playground and the downtown.
The Tauranga Harbour Protection Society, who have historically opposed the walkway, declined to comment on the committee decision until after a meeting this weekend.
Members whose homes backed on to the proposed walkway route had previously argued it would become a crime corridor used by criminals and troublemakers to gain access to their properties.
The society had used ecological arguments to sway public opinion, saying it wanted to restore the beach so it became easier for people to negotiate, build new public accesses to the foreshore and upgrade existing accesses that had fallen into disrepair.
It said a lot of people were already walking the 900m at mid-tide and members were opposed to a structure like a walkway, saying it would be foolhardy from an environmental and amenity point of view.
Monday's meeting was given a ballpark figure of $5m to $7m to build the walkway to a full width of five metres. There were a lot of design and geotech issues.
Councillor Max Mason questioned whether the benefits would outweigh the costs and said he would not want it in front of his house.
Public usage of popular Tauranga walkways
Kulim Park: 1.4 million a year.
Daisy Hardwick: 120,000 a year.
Carmichael Reserve: 120,000 a year.
Matua Saltmarsh: 86,000 a year.