Wharf works and Wi Neera footpath top the bill in this month’s community board update


Deputy chair of the Raglan Community Board, Chris Rayner shares with Aaron some of the matters that are top of his mind, and the board’s agenda, ahead of next Wednesday’s community board meeting.

The meeting will be held this Wednesday, 29 November 2023, at 1.30pm in the Raglan Town Hall.

Western walkway improvements at the wharf

Work is progressing on the western walkway at the Raglan Wharf. The work is the last of four projects to improve the wharf and its environs, and includes tidal stairs, a kayak ramp, new seating areas, cultural artworks and planting

Chris says that, despite some major challenges, the project appears to be on schedule. The big civil works are going on right now, with the trees scheduled to be planted  in the winter or autumn to give them the best chance of survival. In the meantime, the public will see three or four large tree pits being constructed, as the trees will relatively mature and of a good size.

Wi Neera footpath

Work to improve the northern end of the Wi Neera footpath is another major project for the community board at present, with the area between the jetty and footbridge currently closed. 

Once finished, in addition to the reconstructed seawall, there will be a wider footpath (between 2.8 and 3.1 metres wide), and a handrail installed. Work is expected to be finished before Christmas. 

The southern end of the walkway also needs attention, but Chris advises that requires more engineering input and more investment, and will happen later.

Summer bus service 

Plans for the Waikato Regional Council to introduce an internal summer bus service in Raglan this coming summer are now off the table, with the pilot pushed out to the 2024 / 2025 summer.

Chris says that the logistics of the project, including the current nationwide shortage of bus drivers, meant the regional council was unable to stand the project up in time. However, it is still happening and will be jointly funded by the Waikato District Council and Waikato Regional Council as a pilot for what will hopefully become a more enduring service.

“The good thing is that now we've got the time to get everything right, and really make the service for next summer the best it can be. It means we can hit the ground running for the planning phases early next year, so that by the time we come to implement the service, we can get the best out of it. Although the board was disappointed at the delay, it should mean that the trial has more chance of being a success, and hopefully being made permanent,” Chris says.

CCTV cameras

A council officer will be attending Wednesday’s community board meeting to share and discuss details about the new CCTV cameras proposed for the Raglan town centre. The cameras are being funded through central government’s Better Off Funding (part of the Three Waters reform package), with the pool of money to be shared across the district.

Chris says that Raglan is definitely part of the project’s rollout, and hopefully the community will have more clarity after Wednesday’s meeting about when the cameras are likely to be installed.

Costs for long-term plan

With the council’s draft long-term plan currently being finalised for consultation, the big question is how everything that the council hopes to achieve, and Waikato communities aspire to, will be paid for.

Chris says that the community board has drawn a line in the sand when it comes to funding the long-term plan. 

“The community board went on record at its last meeting, and passed a motion to the effect, that it would not support any long-term plan that involves rates increases in double digits, so above 9 per cent. At the moment, the pan dictates the budget, with the council developing a dream list of what it wants to achieve, then cutting back from that. I think it should be the other way around, with a maximum budget set beforehand, then projects prioritised in that context.”

Chris says that it’s becoming increasingly clear that councils around the country will be unable to fulfil their obligations, for example with respect to roading or the three waters, without central government support. He says there are opportunities for the community board to influence the long-term plan and what it funds through workshops before it is drafted, and the consultation process for the draft plan once released. 

Wastewater discharges into harbour

Chris says that, despite understandable community concerns around the recent unscheduled treated wastewater discharges into the harbour, the council’s relationship with Watercare has been a good decision. 

“The staff knowledge, retention and professionality, and the access to information that the partnership has bought are all very positive, especially when you consider how the district’s water assets were being managed previously.”

Chris advises that although the town is stuck with the old system for now, there is a whole new water treatment plant and technology coming Raglan’s way, which has already been funded, with the work going out to tender now.

Recent test results that Watercare took near the museum and boat ramp showing alarming levels of faecal contamination in the harbour water have been shared with the regional council.

Chris says stormwater is the most likely source of the contamination. 

“We've known for a while that stormwater is the major pollutant of our harbour. Human sewage is not the only source of faecal bacteria in the harbour’s water. There’s also faecal matter from geese, ducks, dogs, cats. So the data has been handed over to the regional council to conduct further research and hopefully pin down the source of those high readings. 

“We do know that at the moment there’s long-term problems with that waterway in terms of swimming; it's not a particularly great place for swimming. And there’s other issues, like the boat ramp, and contaminants form the road and form people’s roofs. We have the technology to address these issues, and clean up the health of the harbour, it's just a matter of doing the mahi and obviously having money to do the mahi,” says Chris.

Off-shore windfarm

The community board is not much involved in the proposed plans to construct a windfarm off the coast north of Raglan, as it is outside the council’s territorial area.

“It’s even outside the regional council’s area. It’s basically in New Zealand territorial waters and is the responsibility of central government,” says Chris. 

“I have no qualms about the farm though. From what I’ve read, it appears the turbines will be positive for recreational fishing, because that’s allowed around the turbines, apart from a small exclusion zone at their very base. I understand that the windfarm infrastructure has in fact often improved sea and harbour life, rather than destroyed it. Commercial fishermen can't go through the wind farms with their nets, so they tend to develop a nice little habitat. Hopefully, the project might also bring some local jobs.” 

Transport plans

Chris says there is a transport plan for Raglan currently in development, with a draft hopefully available for consultation in February or March next year. The plan deals in big timeframes of 20 to 50 years, and will build resilience into the town’s transport network.

Chris says, “Resilience is a major part of the plan, thinking about issues such as what would happen if the bridge gets knocked out by a flood or crash? How would people get around to Raglan west and Rangitahi?”

However, Chris says that while the one-way bridge is a ‘flash point’ it also has unintended benefits for traffic movements in the town.

“The one-way bridge actually help with traffic flow in the town because of its stop–go nature. There’s some analysis that shows that if the bridge was widened to two lanes, all the traffic would then bank up on the accesses to the bridge, including into the town. We also need to keep in mind that the bridge is only ever an issue for a few weekends of the year, and the rest of the time it works fine.”

However, Chris is hopeful that there will be some effective traffic management solutions brought in to manage bridge traffic over the busy summer periods, and that those measures will use local people to operate them.