Safety concerns over Mangere boat ramp

CONCERN: James Papali'i and Jim Jackson at Mangere Bridge boat ramp.
CONCERN: James Papali'i and Jim Jackson at Mangere Bridge boat ramp.

Plans for a new all-tide boat ramp at Mangere Bridge are going ahead despite a storm of opposition from boaties.

The Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board has allocated $2.7 million for to replace the old structure just off Coronation Rd, but harbour users say the new design is unsafe and will cause problems.

Attention to safety is paramount given the strong tides of the Manukau Harbour.

Last year So'saia Paasi and his son Tio, 7, drowned after their dinghy was swept toward the old Mangere Bridge and capsized.

James Papali'i, of the Manukau Outriggers, said the waka ama group, which uses the ramp almost daily, faced constant danger from the tides.

''We've had our canoes slammed," he said.

''We've lost a $10,000 canoe because it smashed into the rocks.

''It's just the most dangerous place to launch.''
Much of the opposition centres around the addition of a breakwater ''hard up'' against the western side of the ramp.

The breakwater is intended to make the structure safer for use but is likely to have just the opposite effect, resident Bill Kirk said.

''Every boat that gets launched will have to go right down the end of the breakwater which will put them right in the swift tide running right under the bridge,'' he said.

''I've been telling [Auckland Council] they're going to be responsible if lives are lost due to the inefficiency of the ramp.''

The breakwater can't be built elsewhere because the surrounding waters are designated a Coastal Protection Area Zone 1, which protects high-value areas and forbids building on the seabed.

But Manukau Harbour Restoration Society chairman Jim Jackson said he can see no reason for that protection to be upheld in the waters surrounding the ramp.

''It's just concrete pylons, mud and mangrove sticks down there,'' Jackson said.

He suggests building the new boat ramp on the eastern side of the old Mangere Bridge where the approach road could be used as a breakwater.

But the council has told Jackson his plan would require the new Mangere Bridge - construction of which is due to start late this year - to incorporate a raised section to permit boats to travel underneath.

A raised section was "not part of the current scope for the new design", New Zealand Transport Agency spokesman Stephen Town said.

He said the options investigated "did not preclude" a raised section being retrofitted at a later date.

The local board is sticking to its design.

Chairman Peter Skelton said all members were ''fully aware and informed'' of boaties' views and have ''taken a considered decision'' to support the plan.
Auckland Council spokesman Malcolm Page said a recent ramp design change would diminish the risks for ramp users.

A pontoon on both sides of the ramp - instead of a single pontoon down the middle as originally designed - would allow skippers to turn their boats around and head out bow first, he said.

Auckland Now