Thursday, July 18, 2024

Whanganui to dredge community views on port project

Whanganui District Council, together with hapū and Te Pūwaha: Whanganui’s port revitalisation project partners have begun a community discussion on proposed dredging, and the possibility of using the dredged materials to create a new ecological and recreational community area for the Whanganui community. 

Council says Te Pūwaha project is the first true community-led exercise for management of a project under the new legal status of the Whanganui River as Te Awa Tupua. As part of its portion of work to revitalise the port, Council will file for dredging and reclamation consent in May 2022.

While the Whanganui Port already carries out dredging to provide safe channel for the Coastguard and recreational vessels, the proposed upcoming dredging will enable the rebuild and safe use of the wharves by clearing the port catchment area of sediment, silt, and sand.  

Council said that while efforts to improve land management in the Whanganui River catchment are being addressed, upstream impacts like deforestation that cause sediment from upriver to flow down, as well as coastal erosion entering on the tide, mean some dredging in the port basin will always be necessary to ensure the port can operate safely and effectively.

“Whanganui District Council has planned investment in strengthening the aged wharves at the Whanganui Port as part of a long-term social, recreational and economic plan for the area,” said the Council’s recently appointed chief executive, David Langford.

“The upcoming dredging is yet another project milestone and the council is excited to see this phase of the work coming up in the development of the port.”  

Some of the dredged material could then be reused in a “reclamation,’” laying the foundation for an area of land potentially for community use, he said.  

“Once complete, the revitalised port will be an asset for everyone for decades. The additional opportunity to develop a recreational and ecological space through the proposed reclamation would offer people in Castlecliff a fantastic asset right on their doorstep and add to the many great outdoor amenities available to everyone here in Whanganui,” said Whanganui District Mayor, Hamish McDouall.

The proposal to create a riverside area for the community was developed in collaboration with project partner, hapū collective Te Mata Pūau. As with all decision-making in Te Pūwaha, it was developed in accordance with work progressing through a Te Awa Tupua lens, recognising the Whanganui River as a living and indivisible whole, inclusive of hapū and the wider community, the Mayor said.

“Project partners would love to see the proposed reclamation space come alive through the eyes of the community. Whether it’s families getting outdoors together, or swimmers, kayakers, cyclists and walkers enjoying connecting with the awa,” said Te Pūwaha project director, Hayden Turoa.

“As a project, Te Pūwaha wants to understand the aspirations of the whole community and hapū are leading the work to guide the council as they take this approach out.” 

The proposed area could include an enclosed lagoon for recreational activities, such as swimming and waka ama. It would also feature grassy areas, a children’s play space and new walking and cycling pathways.

The project team is currently looking at what equipment might be most suitable for the priority dredging to create a safe port and marine precinct. This has included advice from specialists around how to reduce the environmental impact of dredging on any marine ecosystems.  

Initial dredging in years one-to-three will mainly remove fine silt, not suitable for forming reclaimed land. Other sediment disposal locations are being sought for this material, Council said.   

The application to rebuild the wharves is currently being processed by Horizons Regional Council and, if the dredging consent is approved, it is anticipated that dredging will start in early 2023. If there is community support for the reclamation space, a land use consent will then be filed for the development. 

“As a council we are committed to our obligation to Tupua te Kawa and Te Awa Tupua. Indivisibility is a key component of Tupua te Kawa and we understand the need to be inclusive, not just of iwi and hapū, but of the whole community when it comes to the river,” said Mr Langford.

He said project partners had already begun to engage interested groups, such as those close to the port area, or who use the river for work or recreation, in the conversation on dredging and reclamation.

The wider community can join the conversation on the council’s Have Your Say page where a survey and more information about the planned dredging and proposed reclamation will be available until Friday, 22 April, 2022. 

The total investment in Te Pūwaha is over $50 million, with the infrastructure works carried out over three tranches or phases.

This includes a $26.75 million government investment managed by Kānoa – Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit, with the remaining cost and resources covered by Whanganui District Council, Horizons Regional Council, Q-West Boat Builders, and the Whanganui District Employment Training Trust (Port Employment Precinct). 

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