Resource consent has been granted for a $20-million marina expansion at Waikawa, near Picton. - Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal
Marlborough's deep green bays and sunny days have long been a magnet for boaties, and soon there will be more plying the Marlborough Sounds and beyond.
Resource consent has been granted to expand the marina at Waikawa, near Picton, at a projected cost of $20 million. The extra berths for recreational boats at Waikawa would take the total to almost 870.
Port Marlborough owns the Picton Marina and Havelock Marina, and the expansion of Waikawa would cement Marlborough's place behind Auckland as having the country's second-largest marina.
The port company's chief executive, Rhys Welbourn, said demand for marina berths in the Queen Charlotte Sound was high, with Picton now full and Waikawa at just under 100 per cent capacity.
"Over the last three years in particular, demand has really built across all marinas.
"Our marina in Havelock, which historically has had a low occupancy is now over 90 percent full."
The Marlborough Sounds covers more than 4000sq/km and is fringed by about 20 percent of the country's total coastline.
Mr Welbourn acknowledged it probably had about 20 percent of the country's total windy weather, which often made sailing in the Sounds "quite challenging".
He said the company's investment in the marina's growth was not just about growing the boating industry, but about supporting the wider economy.
"One of our economic impact assessments shows there's an additional $2.4m of revenue to Marlborough from this development, per year.
"It shows real intent from the port to grow the business and also invest in the local economy as well."
Mr Welbourn said it would also create new jobs in services associated with the marina.
"Whether that's in boat maintenance or hospitality or even in retail."
Mr Welbourn said the consent process had gone smoothly, due to the high level of buy-in from the community and from iwi.
"One secret has been hard work and genuine consultation. This development marks the end of what's been a 10-year process and through that we've been consulting with many stakeholders, whether they're customers, neighbours, other marina users and really genuinely getting their ideas and putting them into the overall design."
Mr Welbourn said the port company started the process not really knowing the way forward, but had taken its time to learn what it should be.
He said the most pleasing aspect had been cementing the relationship with iwi partner Te Atiawa.
He said that had allowed development of kaimoana plans and greater understanding by the port company of taonga, and how to better acknowledge their role as kaitiakitanga.
He said "genuine consultation" meant identifying people who had a real connection with the area, and paying attention to what their needs and thoughts were.
Mr Welbourn had several folders full of public submissions sitting on his office desk, as proof of the level of feedback. He said detailed assessments of cultural, environmental and economic impacts had been done.
"They've not been done just as a box-ticking exercise but to get to the heart of the matters."
The Marlborough Environment Plan had a heavy focus on marine and coastal conservation, and was a fundamental document in guiding protection of the Marlborough Sounds.
Envirohub Marlborough - a collective of conservation groups working under one roof in Picton, said in a statement that increased boating carried risks to the environment, but its role was to help people make positive changes and minimise their impact on the marine environment.
Mr Welbourn said now the consent had been issued, the port company was at the point of delivering on the plan.
"We've got to show now we can deliver on the things we said we would."
The port company was yet to call for tenders, but there was already strong interest from companies with the technical expertise to do the construction.