A group of Mount Maunganui residents who adopted Pilot Bay during the Rena crisis are unhappy with plans to build a $495,000 three-metre wide boardwalk along the full length of the beauty spot.
Leigh Pettigrew, the chairman of the Pilot Bay coast-care group, was at yesterday's council meeting which voted to support the construction of the walkway after the port company decided to chip in $200,000.
The council vote was 10-1 in favour of calling tenders for the construction of the boardwalk, with only councillor Catherine Stewart opposed on the grounds it would be too wide.
The Port of Tauranga's contribution was critical to the project's going ahead after the council agreed earlier this year to restrict itself to spending $295,000 to improve Pilot Bay's grassy foreshore by a "combination of treatments". Once the boardwalk is finished by the middle of next year, it will create a direct link along the scenic foreshore for cruise ship passengers walking to Mauao.
Project spokesman Warren Aitken hoped to have called tenders and let the contract in time for the most southerly section of the boardwalk skirting the Salisbury Wharf carpark to be finished by Christmas.
It meant that many of this season's cruise ship passengers would at least benefit by an easier transition to the grassy foreshore.
Mr Aitken said the bulk of the construction would start late February or early March, with the design focused on keeping as much green space as possible.
Most community concern centred on the impact of a boardwalk on the much wider grassy foreshore between the Salisbury Wharf carpark and the public toilets. The council responded to this by either putting the boardwalk along the narrow strip between the Norfolk pines and the side of the road, or as close to the beach as possible.
The impact of the boardwalk would be further minimised by being built flush with the grass, interspersed by exposed concrete aggregate sections where the walkway linked into pedestrian crossings across The Mall.
Cr Stewart failed to persuade most councillors to limit the width to a maximum of 2.5m. She said 3m would be "quite an encroachment" in some areas, particularly towards the port where the grassed area was used by families.
Cr Rick Curach agreed, saying 3m could compromise precious green space.
Mayor Stuart Crosby argued that the design said up to three metres. "Clearly there will be places where it is not three metres." He said the design was fit for purpose and was not too big or too small.
Deputy Mayor David Stewart said the boardwalk was overdue because the foreshore track was worn out at the northern end and got muddy when it rained. "This will be a huge attraction for Mount Maunganui."
The council also agreed to tidy up the foreshore by installing racks for the dinghies that service the yachts moored in Pilot Bay.
The $495,000 budget could also extend to interpretation panels so people can read the history of the area.
Mr Pettigrew, of the coast-care group, told the Bay of Plenty Times afterwards that the beach was for everyone to enjoy and share and that a walkway up to three metres wide took up far too much of the green space.
"We don't want the area cut off by the walkway, it will change the ambience of the beach."
Mr Pettigrew said the group was not opposed to a walkway through the highest wear areas at the northern end of Pilot Bay's grassy foreshore, but not at the other end where the grass had not worn out.
"We want the area utilised for families."
He also argued against the construction of racks for Pilot Bay's dinghies, saying the dinghies were an icon and were not doing any harm by being tied up just above the high tide mark.
The council decision yesterday was on the basis of a design that minimised the loss of grassy areas along the widest section of foreshore between the toilets and Salisbury Wharf Carpark.
Staff were confident that tenders would come back within its $495,000 budget.