Tauranga City Council’s announcement that it will go ahead with the $500,000 Pilot Bay boardwalk project is a big surprise to the long-time beachside Waka Ama Club.
The waka ama, which has been operating out of Pilot Bay for more than 20 years, will have to move when the planned boardwalk construction begins.
The waka ama operate out of Pilot Bay.
The club stores their waka in the centre of the bay near the toilet block and car park, and their safety gear in the former yacht club building.
When asked about the fate of the waka after the Projects and Monitoring Committee meeting ranger team leader Warren Aitken said the waka will be moving.
This is all news to waka committee member Mike Hickson.
“We had the council come to us last week on Tuesday and mentioned it to us and then we had a meeting on site last Thursday, and they said ‘all this is going to go’.
“They gave us a copy of their plan and said they would make provision for the waka. We said ‘what provision? – and they didn’t really know.
“They talked about down by the camp under Mauao, possibly we could move down there, but they haven’t talked to the iwi. We have yet to see a plan or a mark on the ground.”
The club has put together a letter to council outlining its issues, for posting today.
Mike says they weren’t told about Monday’s Projects and Monitoring Committee meeting where the plan was presented for approval, nor were they invited to attend the public meeting as an affected party.
The underlying reason for the walkway is the increasing numbers of summer visitors including cruise ship passengers that walk along the bay, wearing away the grass strip.
The waka are a part of the Pilot Bay’s attractions, says Mike.
As are the stand-up paddle boarders, the kite boarders and kayakers, who also launch in the centre of the bay. The launch area is also used by surf life savers for practise.
“The waka are one of the features in the advertising brochures for the bay,” says Mike.
“A lot of the tourists, they pose for photographs beside the waka,” says Mike.
“Often they will come up and ask about it.”
Placing the waka under Mauao is going to create conflict with waka ama crossing the path of power boats using the base’s boat ramp.
“If we go down there it’s so congested there, we wold be struggling to get our waka across the road, it’s so packed,” says Mike.
Mike says the other issue is the club’s shed, which was bequeathed to them.
“The boatshed’s been there 20 plus years,” says Mike.
“That used to belong to the Mount sailing club years and years ago. From what I understand one of the sailors had some accident and the waka ama people saved the guy’s life.”
Mike says the shed houses all of the club’s safety gear and life jackets. He doesn’t believe they are permitted to build or transfer the shed to the northern end of the bay.
The other concern about the boardwalk is a water safety issue.
“A lot of people have picnics on the grass bank where they can see their children playing on the beach,” says Mike.
“The little kids are playing in water, the parents are on top of the grass bank, three steps away, not a problem.
“You put in a big wooden walkway, and the parents are now two three meters back, and because of the angle they can’t see the water because you can’t sit on the boardwalk. So you are creating a danger for little kids playing in the water.”
Park rangers team leader Warren Aitken says he met with a members of Waka Ama a couple of weeks ago to inform them they would have to move, and that the council staff would try and find a new area for them.