The potential for a multi-million dollar High Performance sailing facility to be built on the Hibiscus Coast, with Gulf Harbour marina the likely location, could have positive spin offs for local businesses and sailing organisations, but the idea is not welcomed by Albany Ward councillors Wayne Walker and John Watson, who describe it as “a big concern”.
Last week Yachting New Zealand’s chief executive David Abercrombie told Hibiscus Matters that Gulf Harbour is one option being considered for a Centre of Excellence.
However, he says before anything further is done Yachting NZ “will need to understand the area and any issues that might influence our decision making process”.
He says there are a range of interested and affected parties that Yachting NZ will need to talk to once it understands the feasibility of locating on or near the Gulf Harbour site.
Yachting NZ is in the early stages of investigating the option of building a high performance sailing facility at Gulf Harbour after its preferred site, in Takapuna, was turned down.
There was huge community opposition after Yachting NZ’s original plans to build the facility on Auckland Council-owned Takapuna reserve land were revealed, as a result of which the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board refused to grant landowner consent. Yachting NZ withdrew its application to use that site in July.
On the North Shore, Yachting NZ’s final application was for around 1000sqm of reserve land to build its high performance facility.
Cr Walker says that it makes sense that any such site would be on the Hammerhead, at the tip of the marina. This Council-owned land is leased to Gulf Harbour Investments, which was recently granted resource consent to subdivide it.
Cr Walker says the worrying thing is that, while the local board had the power to turn down the application in Takapuna, in the case of the Hammerhead there is the potential for a deal to be done between Gulf Harbour Investments and Yachting NZ, with Council out of the loop.
Crs Walker and Watson say that any such deal could compromise public transport improvements that are currently underway (with more proposed), as well as parking and public access to the Hammerhead.
“It’s very early days but the potential is there and we’re very concerned,” Cr Walker says. “A commercial deal like that could mean the Council and the public, berth holders and ferry service operators, may not be consulted.”
The Hammerhead has become a hub for the growing ferry service and associated parking, with parking spaces often overflowing onto the grass. Large numbers use the public boat ramp, especially at weekends.
Cr Watson says Council has the option of using the Public Works Act to regain control over the Hammerhead. “This land is now far too strategically important for the expanding ferry service and the all-tide ramp that serves the whole Auckland region. The community has been battling for over a decade to safeguard their rights on the Hammerhead. Opposition is now stronger than ever and Council must act decisively to protect this invaluable public asset for the future,” Cr Watson says.
Returning Hibiscus & Bays Local Board member Julia Parfitt was on the North Shore City Council when Yachting NZ’s high performance facility was first put forward and funded. She says North Shore City Council sold a disused asset in Albany and some of that money, around $3 million, was set aside for the sailing centre. Those funds were matched by central government.
She says because the proposed facility is funded by public money, the Council and the community would need to be consulted. “Although it’s early stages, there’s a need for Yachting NZ to be up front about what’s happening, the dimensions of the building and so on,” she says.
Yachting NZ’s high performance programme has been in need of an additional onshore facility for many years. The programme is focused on winning Olympic and Paralympic medals and includes a Youth Programme.