THE end of the wharf is in sight for those who have worked tirelessly for nearly 15 years to restore the historic Tolaga Bay structure.
Contractors are replacing the piles on the end section of the wharf, which is the final phase of the project for which the small East Coast community have raised nearly $5 million.
That figure does not include the value of contributions from Gisborne District Council, which have come mainly in the form of staff time, in handling the design and overseeing contracts for the work. Council engineer Graham Tayler has done much of the design work.
If consultants had done this work, the Tolaga Bay Save the Wharf Trust would have still been looking for at least another $2m, said trust funding director Clive Bibby.
The value of this contribution in kind had been almost incalculable,” he said.
As it was, the Uawa community, with a population of only 800 or so — “most of them on the bones of their backside” — had raised $4.5m, in $1m lots, said Mr Bibby.
“For every $1m, half had to be raised from outside the community and the Lotteries Board would match it dollar-for-dollar,” Mr Bibby said.
What had made the job easier was the astounding fact that members of the community had raised $800,000 themselves through things like sausage sizzles and raffles, which was a measure of their commitment to saving their wharf.
“That helped a lot because when you go to trusts and organisations for grants, one of the first things they ask is what the community had done itself.”
It had also set the scene for other community projects.
“Working with the council, we have set the benchmark for how council and community joint ventures can operate,” he said.
“Nowhere else has this been achieved and it has been so successful the council is using it as a blueprint for other projects.”
The trust was formed in 1998 after the council closed the deteriorating wharf to pedestrian access, having decided it was not feasible to fix or strengthen the piles supporting it.
The community was having none of that, and called for a feasibility report, which gave the council the answer it sought — that strengthening the wharf was not economically viable.
The joint venture was created after it was pointed out to the council that if the wharf collapsed it would become a marine hazard that would cost the council millions to remove.
The agreement was that the council would design and oversee the work and the community would raise the money to pay for it.
The work was done in about five stages, mostly by New Zealand company Conspec of Tauranga, now on the final stage.
This involved rebuilding about 40 piles in the wharf’s end section, and repairing the edge of the southern facing concrete deck.
Work is expected to finish about May, after which a major community celebratory party is planned at Reynolds Hall before it is closed down for renovations. The funding for stage one of the hall has largely been secured as well.
Already there are strong signs of an increased flow of people coming to visit the wharf, which now includes a story board depicting its history and linking it to the Cook’s Cove walkway, with tour groups, cars and campervans regularly filling the newly-lanscaped parking area.
Abby Waru-Atkinson from Uawa Cafe said they had been extremely busy this summer — requiring about six people in the kitchen to keep up with peak demand. They had noticed a lot of people asking for directions to the wharf, or commenting over how much it had changed.
Mr Bibby said the wharf project was but stage one in an East Coast heritage trail that up to now had only been a line on the map. Major things were now planned for Tokomaru Bay.