As the Whanganui Port project begins procurement this week of a contractor to complete the rebuild of Wharf Two at the Port, the Port’s project partners welcome news of the new coalition government’s focus on investment in regional infrastructure.
To date, the Crown has agreed to co-fund $31.8 million in the overall Te Pūwaha: Whanganui Port revitalisation project. With the last three years of inflationary pressures on construction costs, along with the ongoing decay of the existing infrastructure at the Port, all project partners are prepared that further funds will be required to complete the proposed works.
Whanganui Port chair Mark Petersen explains that while there is a projected shortfall, Kānoa (the Crown) is open to discuss the scope of Stage Three once the construction is completed for Stages One and Two. Kānoa is the agency responsible for administering this funding and have communicated support of the Port’s strategy to break down procurement into stages for clarity on the scope of works. Discussion after Stages One and Two will enable plans to be made for any shortfall in the total funding envelope, as the final stage of works is understood and quantified.
“Since the initial funding agreement was established in 2020, we have seen a significant increase in costs, especially in relation to steel and civil construction costs in general,” he says.
“These inflationary pressures are something which are not unique to this project and have been experienced across the whole sector.”
“We’ve also seen an expansion in our scope of works as we now recognise that the repair of the newest wharf is no longer feasible and instead rebuilding of the wharf is required.”
“Six years after the initial business case was prepared for this project, the wharf is now failing in multiple areas and has been assessed as unrepairable. Only three years later in 2020, the retaining wall lagging adjacent against the Victory shed started to fail in multiple areas, which also required the Victory shed and the extension building to be demolished.”
Earlier this year, Te Pūwaha representatives, shareholder Whanganui District Council and the Whanganui Port met with the former Minister of Regional Development and communicated these projected increases.
Te Pūwaha project director, Hayden Turoa attended the meeting.
“It was a positive outcome with the Crown mindful of the value their investment will have for our region,” he says.
“This is important for the wellbeing of our community, a revitalised port which will build a platform for unlocking further investment, stimulate ongoing local economic development in Whanganui, draw in new businesses, and ensure the retention and attraction of high value jobs.”
“We are already seeing the benefits with a value for money procurement approach that has also led to subcontracting out to local small businesses from electricians to engineers, accommodation providers and security.”
Today, the project team start the process of procurement of Stage Two works to select design and construction contractors to rebuild the wharf adjoining the Stage One works, which is known as Wharf Two. The team will also commence the sourcing of dredging equipment for the Port.
Project Director Phil Wardale confirms that the Whanganui Port project team, alongside Te Pūwaha partners are working tirelessly to ensure costs are managed prudently.
“To date, our procurement strategy has enticed smaller regional based contractors to work on the Port and we hope that the Stage Two works will follow the benefits that have been seen in the Stage One works. These are currently underway with a budget of $13m,” he says.
This staged approach to procurement has also resulted in cost savings, with costs for Stage One less than those projected by the project’s Quantity Surveyor.
Whanganui District Council chief executive David Langford is mindful of the project’s funding and any potential impacts on ratepayers.
“This is a hugely important project for our city and has the full support of council,” he says.
“Whilst the ratepayer provision is a contractual backstop required under the Te Pūwaha project funding agreement with central government, we are confident the government recognises the impact of cost inflationary pressures from key infrastructure projects like this on regional ratepayers.”
“We hope this region will benefit from the new coalition government’s infrastructure funds and we are keen to discuss this with relevant ministers, as the Port and its redevelopment has been a number one infrastructure project for this region.”
Consultation on Whanganui District Council’s Long-Term Plan will occur early next year and, as part of that process the port project funding will be one of the key issues the Council talks to the community about.
“At this stage, the Long-Term plan will not be about asking ratepayers to put even more funding into the project on top of the extra that has been committed. Instead it will be about how important the project is for our region and how we need to stay-the-course and finish the job.”
Whanganui District Council will have further information in the New Year as to what that process will look like and the timeframes involved.
In the meantime, Te Pūwaha project chair Kahureremoa Aki advises that the negotiation of additional central government funding will be led from the centre of the project.
“Te Pūwaha is about coming together as a collective, and that collective demonstrates that hapū, iwi and community leadership lies at the heart of the successful delivery of the Crown’s investment thus far. It will ensure further successful delivery, with a continued focus on care and enhancement of outcomes for the awa and its communities.”
Project Director Phil Wardale, confirms that contractor Concrete Structures’ Stage One works is progressing to programme with the more significant tubular steel piling works expected to be completed on time ahead of the Christmas shutdown.
“We’ve also been focused on completion of the essential dredging of the port basin ahead of the peak summer season to accommodate vessels using the Wharf St boat ramp,” he says.
“The spring weather conditions have resulted in significant sedimentation during the westerly wind events, which will see the Port team working to clear the sediment over the next three weeks in the lead up to Christmas.”