Raglan Wharf may be more than fish and chips, as ward councillor Clint Baddeley emphasised at the official launch of its replacement building on Monday, but a special newspaper-wrapped lunch of New Zealand’s favourite seaside fare went down a treat all the same with the 100-odd invited guests.
Waikato district mayor Allan Sanson, who cut the red ribbon to open the $1.9 million building, was still talking about it long afterwards.
“It was great. Fish and chips out of the newspaper. Even the choice of crumbed or battered fish, and tomato or tartare sauce,” he enthused.
Ironically the takeaways came from the restaurant across the road, as Raglan Seafoods has yet to re-establish let alone finally sign on the dotted line as anchor tenant after its premises went up in smoke along with everything else in the spectacular April 2010 blaze that razed the 1920s wharf building.
But this was an occasion for celebration and Mr Sanson thanked everybody from Raglan Community Board and the local Coastguard to the business community and the mana whenua of Whaingaroa for their support in getting the wharf up and running again.
The big-ticket Waikato District Council project comes at a total cost of almost $3 million, a figure which includes structural reinforcement of the old concrete piles of the wharf itself.
Cr Baddeley emphasised at the opening that the wharf was about more than fish and chips and that all the commercial activity there was important to the town.
He told of his own “close connection with this wharf” and about his early working life as a storeman there in the ‘70s when cement ships would offload their cargos at the Golden Bay silos.
In particular he recalled the day his car wouldn’t start and he had to run to work and then race up the tallest silo’s internal staircase to change the safety valve after the high level alarm went off.
“I came when the Holm Shipping Company were finished here … I’m absolutely happy about the rebuild in honour of all the people that have worked this wharf. It’s quite a significant day.”
Also at the official opening was longtime Raglan resident Merle Waretini whose late husband Harry worked too as a storeman alongside Clint back in the day. Merle and fellow Ngati Mahanga kuia Eva Jeans-Waitere performed a karanga or welcome call at the official opening.
Although completion of the wharf project took longer than he’d wanted, Cr Baddeley pointed out it was the structural repairs underneath that slowed things down but that the new building — designed by Beca Infrastructure and built by Livingstone Construction — was finished within the expected six months.
The wharf reinforcing work — which was undertaken by HEB Structures — was always scheduled by council but as a result of the fire had to be brought forward by a couple of years to accommodate the new building.
Raglan Community Board chairman Rodger Gallagher predicted the wharf would have a flow-on effect to the rest of the community, and was hopeful this would give the town and local economy a boost “because it certainly needs it”.
WDC water & facilities general manager Richard Bax was confident at Monday’s opening the wharf would now get back to the old buzz — “because that’s what it’s all about, a busy working wharf”.
Richard told the Chronicle there was a lot of interest in the new building’s four remaining tenancies, and just some paperwork to finalise on Raglan Seafoods’ lease which is to take up the two seafront spots available.
Raglan Coastguard will return too to the building with the seventh tenancy.
Although it had the same “footprint” as the old, added Richard, the new space was more useable given council’s opportunity to have the building designed from scratch.
Most guests at the lunchtime function chose to take a complimentary harbour cruise on the Wahinemoe after the event while residents took advantage of the open day that afternoon to look around the facilities for the first time.