Friday, 03 July 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Sugarloaf Wharf investment a game changer

A $19.95 million government investment to expand Sugarloaf Wharf in Coromandel Town will almost double mussel processing capacity at the facility and has been described as a gamechanger for the local aquaculture sector.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters visited Thames last week to make the announcement, the culmination of a 20-year campaign by members of the sector, in collaboration with Thames-Coromandel District Council, the Hauraki Māori Trust Board and Waikato Regional Council.

The funding will come from the Provincial Growth Fund and around 25 jobs will be created during construction, which is expected to take 18 months to complete using mainly local contractors and suppliers. TCDC says the consenting process is currently being worked through. The development will include an extended, raised wharf platform to account for rising sea levels, along with four new berths for increased commercial mussel activity and a separate facility with launching for recreational boats.

Long-term, the new wharf, known as Te Ariki Tahi Sugarloaf, will generate an estimated 170 new jobs in the marine farming sector. Ninety per cent of the North Island’s greenshell mussels are already processed at the wharf. The facility has been operating at its full capacity of 24,000 tonnes for several years. Once complete, the new wharf will have a capacity of 42,000 tonnes.

Coromandel Marine Farmers’ Association chair, Stephen Hand, said the extended wharf was a vital ingredient that would fuel the growth of the sector for the next 20 years. “The government investment is a vote of confidence in our future,” he said.

Opportunities for processing both finfish and seaweed were also being explored, he revealed.

Coromandel-Colville councillor, John Morrissey, said the investment would mean new opportunities for young people to gain employment so they would no longer have to leave the Coromandel Town area. “This is the best thing to happen in [the area] for a very long time,” he said, adding that the knock-on effect for the wider community would be significant.

Harry Mikaere of the Marine Farmers’ Association says all 12 Coromandel iwi have been part of discussions to date and consultation would take place with the local community going forward, particularly those in the vicinity of the wharf. “We want to bring the community with us in this, so will be talking to everyone as we go along,” he said.

He also said a high level of investment in science and innovation was resulting in vastly better production and harvesting methods, as well as increased environmental monitoring and protection.

The local aquaculture sector contributes $70 million to the Thames-Coromandel District’s GDP and is currently responsible for 350 jobs. TCDC mayor, Sandra Goudie, said the announcement on Tuesday marked the best day of her 35 years in public office. She highlighted the support of neighbouring Hauraki and Matamata-Piako District Councils, and said the eastern Waikato was now “a force to be reckoned with.”

In addition to the obvious benefits for the aquaculture sector, TCDC is expecting that providing a safer recreational boating space will also encourage more domestic visitors to the Coromandel Peninsula and grow new opportunities such as charter fishing, which is already popular in the Coromandel area.

Pictured: From the left - Coromandel Marine Farmers chair, Stephen Hand, Hauraki Māori Trust Board chair, David Taipari, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Thames-Coromandel District mayor, Sandra Goudie, at the PGF announcement for Coromandel’s Sugarloaf Wharf on Tuesday last week.

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