Far North: What would you do with $4m of council cash?

An extension of the popular Treaty Grounds-Haruru Falls walkway as far as Waimate North is one of the suggestions for council funding left over after the Paihia breakwater project was cancelled. Photo / Malcolm Pullman

Suggestions of how to spend more than $4 million of council money left over after a controversial seawall project was canceled include a riverside walkway, a performing arts centre, an alternative fuel project and town upgrades ahead of Paihia’s 200th anniversary.

In July 2020 the Government pledged $8m from the Provincial Growth Fund for a project that would have seen breakwaters built around Paihia to protect the town from storms as well as restoration of an eroded beach.

The Government’s share of the money was lost when the project was canned earlier this year but the Far North District Council’s $5.8m remains.

Of that, $1.7m has been set aside for Paihia waterfront improvements but that leaves $4.1m up for grabs for projects anywhere in the district.

More than 150 people turned out at a public meeting in Paihia last Thursday to offer ideas about how the cash should be spent.

The meeting was chaired by Mayor John Carter who said he wouldn’t let anyone relitigate the controversial breakwater project.

One of the most popular ideas, going by the applause, came from Albie Apiata of Waitangi Marae who suggested extending a popular walkway along Waitangi River.

Currently the track led from the Treaty Grounds to Haruru Falls but it would be a great asset to local residents and tourism if it was extended all the way to Waimate North.

The most heartfelt plea came from Clare Williams on behalf of her late father, the long-serving Focus Paihia volunteer Chris Williams.

She said his dying wishes included beautifying the town’s lookout points and creating a walkway linking Paihia and Waitangi ahead of the town’s 200th anniversary in 2023.

The cancellation of a multi-million-dollar breakwater and beach restoration project in Paihia (pictured) means the council has $4m up its sleeve for community infrastructure projects.  Image / Far North Holdings
The cancellation of a multi-million-dollar breakwater and beach restoration project in Paihia (pictured) means the council has $4m up its sleeve for community infrastructure projects. Image / Far North Holdings

Charles Parker called for intertidal steps between The Bluff and Paihia wharf to replace an “ugly rock wall” and improve recreational access to the water.

The steps were part of the original waterfront redevelopment plan so designs and consents were already in place.

Paula Beck urged the council to buy back the Ōpua headland known as Puketiti and turn it into a public reserve.

The headland, which was sold to an overseas developer, has been occupied for almost two years.

Geoff Waterhouse suggested an alternative fuel project producing bio-alcohol for vehicles, while Anna Wilson of Paihia Haven of History called for a walkway with information panels to help mark the town’s bicentenary.

Stephen Gray, of Paihia Football Club, said the long-underfunded sports facilities at Bledisloe Domain, in Haruru, were “knackered”.

Seed money would allow the club to apply for outside funding for an upgrade.

Marine engineering contractor Andrew Johnson disputed claims the breakwater project had been dropped because of cost escalation.

He said he had submitted a quote within Far North Holdings’ budget and the public should be given a chance to debate whether the project should still go ahead. He was shut down by Carter.

Several people called for an all-ages community or performing arts center in Paihia.

Prashant Kapoor said a large shed could be built at relatively low cost, allowing indoor sports and activities to take place all year around.

“If you can get children involved in sports, that’s half your problems solved right away,” he said.

Others suggested erosion protection work at Paihia’s beaches, repairs to the closed Ōpua-Paihia Coastal Track, a heated pool and traffic-slowing measures to deter hoons on Kings Rd.

Carter said the meeting had produced “some bloody wonderful ideas”. They would be collated and circulated ahead of the next step in the decision-making process.


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