‘Co-ordinated’ harbour approach being mulled

Back Beach, in Port Chalmers, is expected to become increasingly congested. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Back Beach, in Port Chalmers, is expected to become increasingly congested. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
An expected influx of people at Back Beach, in Port Chalmers, could be the catalyst for a new multi-organisation approach to a range of projects around Otago Harbour.

The Dunedin City Council said the "new co-ordinated approach" to Otago Harbour issues was yet to be confirmed, but would help on issues such as the expected increase in use of facilities at Back Beach once the State Highway 88 cycleway was complete.

"We are in discussions with Port Otago and the Otago Regional Council about a new co-ordinated approach to our harbour," a council spokesman said.

"This may include the formation of a joint oversight group, which is currently being investigated, comprising the Dunedin City Council, Port Otago and the ORC, together with mana whenua."

Port Otago chief executive Kevin Winders said he saw the benefit of such a group for about four or five large projects around the harbour.

Port Otago had recently been involved in another joint project in the harbour at Te Rauone Beach, where collaboration between the community, Te Rūnaka o Ōtākou, the port company and the city and regional councils had produced a well-liked asset.

Now, at Back Beach, with the cycleway nearing completion, the number of cyclists looking to ferry across the harbour to access the other side could increase significantly imminently.

"With the cycleway coming on stream I think we could be surprised how many people want to jump on their bikes and start using that loop.

"You've got a beautiful big slipway, but then you've got the Sea Scouts right next to it, with kids learning out in vessels ... kids swimming and jumping off wharves. You've got the naval cadets — exactly the same thing.

"All within 100m of a commercial launch where you're going to have vessels and you're going to have ferries and high activity.

"You've got limited ferry pontoons, no ticket office — there"s limited commercial resources there to support commercial ferry operators.

"It is the main recreational launch area for fishers.

"Clearly, it would be good to look at that holistically.

"It probably needs ORC, DCC, iwi and us sitting around the table going ‘How can we make this work?"

At city council annual plan hearings under way, the community is already asking for support.

Port Chalmers Yacht Club commodore Steve Duder has called for "urgent redevelopment" of the area under increasing pressure due to the arrival of commercial boat operators using public amenities, increased cruise ship visitor numbers and the pending increase in cyclists.

The West Harbour Community Board submission to the annual plan refers to community concern around increased congestion in the area as well.

The community board asked the city council to support a call on the regional council to form an "Otago Harbour User Working Group" that included recreational, commercial and governance bodies.

Regional council communications general manager Richard Saunders said the council had been part of conversations about the development of a harbour plan and "looks forward to working with all parties on this".

No specific consideration had been given to particular projects, but the council had set aside funding for the development of such a plan, he said.