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Regional

New $2.9m Pouto wharf provides vital Kaipara link

Kaipara Harbour’s newest wharf is expected to boost tourism and the economy for the isolated Pouto community and beyond.

The new $2.9 million Pouto wharf was officially opened on Friday in the tiny community that clings to the tip of the harbour’s windswept northern barrier peninsula entrance - at the end of the road about 60km south of Dargaville,

It is the first wharf built on Kaipara Harbour in more than 30 years. It was opened by Kaipara District Council (KDC) Mayor in a ceremony attended by about 100 people.

Kaipara Mayor Craig Jepson (in light trousers with dark jacket) was among dignataries who opened Pouto wharf on Friday. Also cutting the ribbon (from left) were Northland MP Grant McCallum, NRC chair Geoff Crawford, Minister for Rural Communities Mark Patterson and Ngāti Whātua kaumatua Ben Hita cutting the ribbon to officially open Kaipara Harbour's newest wharf (Photo Susan Botting Local Democracy Reporter Northland)

Its opening brings to an end more than six decades without a local wharf for the tiny settlement.

The almost 1000 square kilometre harbour straddles Northland and Auckland.

The new wharf has been built to be 2.3 metres above the current highest tide, and allows for about half a metre’s sea level rise by 2070.

Kaipara Mayor Craig Jepson said the wharf provided a boost for the increasingly important cycle tourism sector. It would link cycle visitors into the developing Kaihu Valley Trail from Dargaville north towards the Waipoua Kauri forest.

Cyclists would be able to build in a local cultural experience while at Pouto, staying at the settlement’s Waikaretu Marae.

Hundreds of cyclists pass through Pouto each year, including on the annual 3000km Tour Aotearoa event from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

The new 60-metre long timber wharf is part of the Government-funded $4.95 million Kaipara Harbour Wharves project, which is part of KDC’s Kaipara Kick Start project. The funding came from what was originally the Provincial Growth Fund, now Kanoa-Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit.

Kaipara Harbour Wharves also includes Pahi wharf’s $1.2 million upgrade completed in December 2021 and Dargaville’s new $660,000 pontoon finished in October 2020.

Completing the three projects supports water-based transport network across Kaipara Harbour, connecting communities and supporting and attracting residents, businesses and tourists.

About 100 people including the Minister for rural communities, iwi leaders, Kaipara's Mayor and many more celebrate the opening of the Pouto wharf (Photo Susan Botting Local Democracy Reporter Northland)

During the wharf’s opening, Minister for Rural Communities Mark Patterson said the Government funding for the wharf was an example of supporting local people to develop infrastructure.

“This is regional development at its best,” Patterson said.

The wharf began construction in September 2022. It was built by Auckland-based STF Group, which also finished its design work. Community feedback was included in the wharf’s design.

The official opening was the culmination of a two decade-plus dream for former Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith, who was involved with the initial Government-funded feasibility study into the wharf in 2002.

Smith said the wharf was a key link between Northland and the rest of the country and there was opportunity for those wanting to develop sea-based transport via Pouto.

He said Pouto would have been a lot less isolated during Cyclone Gabrielle with the wharf’s presence.

The settlement’s first wharf was built out of kauri in the 1920s, lasting about 30 years and demolished in the late 1950s. It followed a jetty built in 1914.

Pouto born-and-bred Ngāti Whātua kaumatua Ben Hita said the new wharf was a key part of his people’s economic sustainability goals.

Ngāti Whātua kaumatua Ben Hita at the wharf opening (Photo Susan Botting Local Democracy Reporter Northland)

As a youngster Hita made the most of the settlement’s previous wharf.

“We dived and swam and fished off the old wharf in the late ‘40s and ‘50s.

“The old wharf was getting pretty rickety by then.”

Te Uri o Hau on Friday also opened a new native plant nursery on its Waikaretu marae at Pouto, in sync with the new wharf.

Te Uri o Hau co-chair Jason Dunn said the new nursery was linked to another at Te Arai. Trees produced in the nursery could potentially be transported out of Pouto by sea to Waikato and planted there to boost local waterway health.

The wharf is built to ocean-grade standards with steel and concrete piles included due to the rugged, exposed and challenging environment in which it is situated.

Dargaville’s PK Ipere was the first fisherman to use to the Pouto wharf after its official opening on Friday – declaring it ideal for the pastime.

The wharf’s head sits in about eight metres of water at high tide.

Kaipara Harbour is one of the world’s biggest, measuring almost 1000 square kilometre.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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