So as I have done the first set of maps for the two lines north of Otiria, here they are. The ones for Opua are relatively easy because the base imagery from Linz is available in 0.1 metre resolution, which is also available for Kaikohe, the next station we will look at, but not for any of the other four stations - Okaihau, Otiria, Kawakawa or Moerewa. At the same time as typing this I am about to extract the sectioned layers for those four stations from a 15 GB mosaic image (the biggest one I have ever worked on, which used 68 GB of memory/swap resource on the computer that was editing it). Anyway here is Opua.
All I can really tell you about Opua is that it has changed a lot over the years and I will try to document that but I only have done maps at this stage for the last 44 years.
For a historical perspective here is the first Opua station yard which is quite detailed and it is dated 1950. I will eventually be drawing a map of this but that will come later. So you can see there was an engine shed as well as the turntable and the original station building.
Opua wharf 2014 much modified for the marina. Although track is still in place it is disconnected, and the only ships that come into Opua apart from ferry services, fishing boats and yachts, are mainly cruise ships which anchor offshore and use launches to transfer passengers to shore.
Opua main yard area 1975 (second station). The original layout had the railway facilities in against the hill as seen in the first picture. About the late 1960s the yard was completely changed to allow this big shed to be built, which was cut into the hillside, and I am presuming this shed belonged to the local harbour board, which probably also used most of the other unmarked sheds that can be seen. NZR at this time had a small station and goods shed, indicated by the S and G markings. Passenger services to Opua ceased about this time and were probably poorly used by the time this station was built, and there is no sign of a platform of any sort. Loading banks are another common yard feature that aren't obvious in this picture, and the size of the goods shed indicates NZR didn't handle much general freight at this time.
Towards the left of this view of Opua (2014) we can see the site of the third Opua station, which is the one that the Bay of Islands Scenic Railway operated from 1985 to 2001. There are naturally questions as to how they chose this site but I would guess there had been changes made at Opua or that were being pushed through which meant they didn't have the ability to use the NZR station site a little further north, or decided this was a better site. In all probability they were already coming under the pressure that began to rear its head in the early 2000s to give up part of the station yard to other interests. Because LTSA forced BOISR to shut down in 2001 for failing to meet their safety obligations, commercial interests at that time moved in and occupied most of the land around the station and when BOIVR got going soon after they were forced out of Opua by the local council pandering to the commercial development interests, mainly boatyards and the marina development that can be seen. The turntable was taken out around 2006 and moved to Kawakawa where it is still used by BOIVR.
This photo is from 1985 Whites Aviation and it shows that at that time possibly just before BOISR moved in that the station buildings at Opua appear to have gone and there were some other small buildings put on the station site plus a lot of carparking so evidently squatters had moved into the site by that stage. Probably a boat repair yard judging by the some of the stuff lying around. This appears to have been encouraged wholesale by local authorities in that era.
This is a Whites Aviation photo from 1986 looking over Opua from the west and what we can see is a jetty has been built out into the sea that was not even there in 1985 so as soon as NZR moved out the squatters moved in, this is the same everywhere, commercial interests and local councils bullying government agencies for land. So that turn of events would have pretty quickly made sure the use of the second railway yard at Opua would have not been available to any new owner of the Opua railway. To the right of the big storage shed you can see J 1211 with some rolling stock because the Bay of Islands Scenic Railway had taken over the line at that stage and was running J 1211 in the summer of 1985/86 on the line. So their terminus was up by the turntable where by that stage they had built a small platform for the passengers.
The black and white 1975 image doesn't show much that hasn't already been covered so I will just refer here to the obvious views, the turntable and most of the area that BOISR was using has all been taken over for a marina as they were bullied out by local commercial interests supported by the local council that took over the Far North District Council.This appears to be before Wayne Brown was first elected as the Mayor (John Carter came along later) but of course decisions are made by a full council which in a district like Far North would be dominated by right wing people. Neither of Brown nor Carter have been particularly friendly to railway development so far with Brown in particular pushing for the Northland Regional Council to be abolished and still ranting against the regional council to this day and Carter calling for a large unitary council as opposed to the smaller FNDC unitary authority that Brown wanted. The only good thing is Brown has now changed his tune and wants the railways in the north to be developed to help his business interests but if NRC had been abolished as he wanted that would have been a big blow to railway development as at that time they were instrumental in getting work started on the Marsden Point corridor.
What still remains at Opua is the platform and the tracks just behind it where BOISR used to run into but the platform now has a building that has been put on top of it and whilst the track is still there it isn't accessible by trains any longer. And the turntable pit has been filled in to make a carpark.
Again we will consider both photos together. This area of land was actually a causeway for the railway because the bay area was filled in sometime in the 1960s going by the Whites Aviation photos and as seen 1975 it seems at that stage to have been filled in relatively recently at that time. Nowadays it is all boatyard and the problem for BOIVR is that the boatyards took over the rail corridor just as soon as BOISR was closed down and whilst you in fact still can find the railway line going along the route that it used to take it is all being squatted on.
Again looking at both photos. This is basically the limit of the 1975 aerial photos (it's possible there may have been more area covered by some of the other photos in the series, but I always choose just the minimum number needed to cover a yard to reduce my workload). And already in 1975 there was a boat yard established on the foreshore and the NZR would have had issues with stuff being dragged across the tracks by boatyard people. The 2014 photo shows the boatyard now much bigger and squatting on the rail corridor although the tracks are still there.
This photo shows where BOIVR have been pushed back to, the outskirts of Opua. BOISR was closed down by LTSA in 2001 for failing to meet their safe certification requirements, as the track had deteriorated by that time significantly over 15 years. BOIVR got going not too long after that, but by but as the big bridge at Taumarere needed major repairs, they got bullied out of the Opua site so they took up the turntable and moved it to Kawakawa in 2006. Then under the Key National Government there were cycleway developments so whoever was the mayor at the time (either Brown or Carter) bullied BOIVR into turning the line beyond Taumarere into a cycleway and the track was buried under a layer of gravel and dirt to let the cycleway go through to Opua. Eventually BOIVR were allowed to put together a proposal for a new station at Opua so this is the site and it will be developed when funding becomes available. With the funding available under Labour/NZ First it seems quite likely they can get Provincial Growth Fund money to make the development happen and the Taumarere bridge has been fully repaired so all they need now is to get rid of the cycleway. However the Whangae Tunnel will need repairs as well so perhaps they will need time to assess the work and extend their funding application there also.