A struggle for control of the Kawau Boating Club is brewing as island residents fear that the club is being taken over by its Auckland-based membership.
Former club secretary and island resident Lin Pardey is mounting a leadership coup and says she has the backing of at least 38 other members, who have given her the right to vote on their behalf.
The issue came to a head when current president Mike Mahoney, who is a prominent Auckland developer, proposed holding the club annual general meeting via ZOOM in September.
Mr Mahoney was advised by legal counsel that holding the AGM online would be unconstitutional, disadvantaging live-aboard boat owners and islanders with poor internet connections.
He then resolved to hold the meeting at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) headquarters in Auckland, which was even more unpalatable to island residents. Ultimately, it was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Ms Pardey says prior to the proposed annual meetings, Mr Mahoney did not circulate notices of motion or nominations for new committee leadership. She says this was undemocratic and financial information has also been withheld.
She says Mr Mahoney recently appointed three of his associates to the committee without confirming them at an AGM. They are all Auckland businessmen.
Ms Pardey has assembled an alternative committee consisting of two island residents, two Auckland residents who own property on the island and a live-aboard boat owner.
She says it would offer a better representation of the diversity of members, rather than being “an RNZYS outpost”.
One of the nominees for the alternative committee is local politician and long-time club member, Beth Houlbrooke.
Ms Houlbrooke says she has noticed a change of tone in the club’s official communications recently. She was alarmed when she saw a proposal for a members only lounge.
“That was a massive red flag. The club needs to focus on keeping the water running, not flash extensions.
“That kind of exclusivity is not the club I joined. I love that it’s the kind of place where multi-millionaires can share a table with old sea dogs.”
Ms Houlbrooke is also concerned that the club has not actively sought membership renewals, which she says should be a priority.
Ms Pardey says she understands that the club has just 250 paid-up members, compared to last year’s historic high of 780 members.
President Mike Mahoney denies that he has mismanaged the club and says it is on track to exceed last year’s membership numbers.
“The committee is comprised of business people who run a tight ship. We have paid down debt and maintained healthy surpluses,” he says.
He says in the past, the committee has organised community activities under his tenure, including a dinghy cruise to the Matakana Farmers Market and a Labour Weekend regatta. He would also like to organise a Hamilton Island-style regatta to match the annual Mahurangi regatta.
“We recognise the importance of all our members, not just those who reside on Kawau or in Rodney. The majority of members are Auckland city residents,” he says.
Mr Mahoney said he would honour constitutional requirements to open the books and hold an election at an AGM.
He said this would be held in February and financial reporting and committee nominations would be distributed to members 14 days prior.