About the Project
As late as the mid-1960s, Opotiki's harbour was an important part of the district's transport infrastructure. The harbour provided a vital link to markets and supported transport of goods and products around New Zealand and to the wider world.
As the region's roading infrastructure developed, use of the port reduced and the harbour was not maintained. Significant shallowing of the Waioeka River mouth (harbour entrance) resulted in access being limited to smaller vessels which can only cross the bar in good conditions. Bad weather further reduces harbour access.
Re-establishing the harbour is a long-held community aspiration. The Opotiki Harbour Development Project will provide a platform for sustainable economic growth by:
- Capitalising on opportunities from the existing 3,800 hectare marine farm offshore from Opotiki.
- Enabling other aquaculture ventures and marine related development in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
- Increasing overall social, economic and cultural wellbeing in Opotiki and the wider Eastern Bay of Plenty.
- Enhancing recreation opportunities and public access to the coast.
The preferred option for improving the harbour entrance is to construct two sea walls either side of a new channel dredged to a depth of about four metres, then to close the existing harbour entrance. This was confirmed through a number of studies, preliminary modelling and design work as being the best option for providing significant long term navigability improvements and good accessibility in most wave conditions.
This nationally significant project dates from 2001 when the potential for a job rich aquaculture industry was identified as a major opportunity in the productive eastern bay waters. The role of Whakatōhea as kaitiaki and developer of the water space has been a crucial component, as has the commercial lens brought to the opportunity by Whakatōhea Mussels Ōpōtiki Limited, and the council’s determination to deliver the required infrastructure.
Currently there is 4750 ha of consented water space with 2 consents majority owned by Whakatōhea. A further 4050 ha is in process and a further 5000 ha “reserved” with an agreement in principle to settle between the Crown and Te Whānau a Apanui. Independent reports show up to 17,000 ha may be sustainably farmed in the long term.
An independent assessment of the Social and Community Benefits associated with the Aquaculture Industry and the Harbour Transformation Project points to quantifiable social benefits in the areas of increased employment and increased household income coupled with reduced welfare dependency within the Ōpōtiki District. Further, the report cites increased home ownership, reduced overcrowding, reduction in criminal offending, the revitalisation of Iwi, population growth, and an increased rating base as some of the non-quantifiable benefits that will flow from the combined projects.
Given the positive social and economic benefits for the Ōpōtiki District Community, the Eastern Bay of Plenty, the region and New Zealand as a whole, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Central Government are key stakeholders and funding partners.
To make the programme of activity as successful as possible it is important that as many locals as possible gain employment and opportunity from the investments. Alongside the planning for the Harbour build, Council has been planning and implementing projects to ensure essential infrastructure (such as sewerage) is in place and capable of meeting the needs of the community. You can read more about work that is ongoing in workforce development and employer readiness and Council's advocacy for government investment and support for housing in the 2021-2031 Opotiki District Council Long Term Plan.