Coast to be restored
A community is set to get sunbathing again decades after losing its beaches to a motorway.
A significant moment in the move towards the restoration of a coastal area in Onehunga was reached on Monday morning when the project was blessed ahead of construction starting.
Mana Whenua, Auckland Council staff, community advocates, politicians and constructors gathered at the Manukau Cruising Club for a blessing to "clear the way" for the project.
It has been a long road to this point, finally arrived at 37 years after a government proposal to fix the beaches following construction of the motorway through Onehunga Bay.
The significance of the moment was duly acknowledged.
A prayer down by the water led by kaumatua with ancestral links to the area was attended by about 150 people who then repaired to the cruising club for breakfast.
Many different groups and individuals have worked hard over a long time to make the foreshore restoration a reality.
Among them is The Onehunga Enhancement Society chairman Jim Jackson who was given a round of applause for his efforts - his wife Carol is considered a foreshore "widow" because of the many hours he has put in over the years.
Mr Jackson says the job should signal a new appreciation of the previously under-rated and abused Manukau Harbour.
"I grew up on the hill just there and I can recall what it was like and what we're heading for," he says.
"Manukau is an environment that has been overlooked for a long time . . . to me this is a foundation stone and it will be the benchmark in New Zealand.
"I'm excited to reconnect Onehunga with the sea after 36 years. This will also bring benefits not only to Onehunga but to the greater city of Auckland."
Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board deputy chairwoman Bridget Graham says the blessing marked a "wonderful day" and the start of a new chapter.
"I have represented Onehunga for many years now and everywhere I go people say how much they missed having access," she says.
"Now it is happening thanks to the vision of quite a lot of people in the community."
She says the restoration is a nationally significant project.
"It has much, much wider implications than just the restoration of a beach in Onehunga, although certainly that is important.
"It's the biggest restoration of its kind in the whole of New Zealand.
"We are looking at restoring something to this harbour that actually should never have been taken away. This can only raise the profile of this harbour and this region."
The restoration work will be led by contractors Fulton Hogan, who will take control of the site this month.
The $28 million project will provide high-quality open space, beaches, a boat ramp and picnic areas.
A bridge will connect the new land to the Onehunga lagoon.