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The construction team and council staff celebrate the latest milestone at the Kōpū Marine and Business Precinct. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

Banded rails, rainfall hinder work at Kōpū

A banded rail population that was potentially strengthened by the site works at the Kōpū Marine and Business Precinct has been a somewhat cheeky challenge for the construction team.
The birds, pleased by the workers opening up a larger food area for them, would pick up crabs cleared from the ground and eat them behind the diggers.
But their presence also meant all work around them had to stop.
“There was a banded rail nesting area through here so where we found a nest, we had to stop work in that area for an exclusion zone until they hatched and moved on,” Fulton Hogan’s construction divisional manager for Waikato Gordon Inglis said.
“There were six or eight nesting areas which were potentially increased by us opening up more food areas for them as we cleared it.”
Mr Inglis said the birds “slowed work down dramatically” but it was all part of the process.
He was one of many who have worked behind the scenes who were present at a tour of the Kōpū development, alongside Thames-Coromandel District Council Mayor Len Salt and staff, councillors and community board members, and Waikato Regional councillor Warren Maher.
Once completed, the precinct has the potential to create 108 jobs and could bring economic returns of up to $58.5 million over the next 30 years.
The first stage of the works was completed by Fulton Hogan at the end of March, which included forming the base for the recreational parking and commercial areas, installing piles to support crane pads, and connecting the newly formed King St to the precinct.
They will return in early 2024 to complete the car park surface, King St paving and Quay St entrance widening.
“It’s awesome to have the mangroves gone and the hardstand here and it’ll be a fantastic project for the area,” Mr Inglis told The Profile. “I’m proud to be involved in it.”
Most of the $15.3m cost of the project is being met through an $8.2m grant from the government’s Crown Infrastructure Partners Fund, $4.05m from the Three Waters Reform ‘better off’ funding, and $1.4m from the Thames Community Board’s Thames Urban General-Purpose Reserve.
Vaughan Austen from Kōpū Marine shared his excitement for the project.
He said while the large amount of rainfall throughout the summer was challenging, the workers on site persevered.
“It’s really impressive,” he said. “We’re turning down so much marine work, there’s just so much out there, and I hope someone else invests and makes the most of this opportunity.”
Once completed, the facility will consist of an 80m-long commercial wharf and floating pontoon; an upgraded, concrete reinforced slipway; and a public boat ramp and car park.
The target date for the opening of the whole precinct is May, 2024.