A decision by Auckland Transport (AT) to close Sandspit Wharf next month has bought a storm of protest from wharf users.
The wharf is the main stepping off point for Kawau Island, as well as other smaller islands off the Mahurangi Coast.
AT informed the Rodney Local Board and Kawau Residents and Ratepayers last Friday that it plans to shut the wharf down to everything but pedestrian traffic for six to eight weeks leading up to Christmas.
It says that structural engineers have assessed the wharf and found that strengthening work needs to be done to ensure that vehicles can safely use the wharf to pick up and drop off goods.
Kawau Boat Club owner David Lee says he will lay down in front of the machines if the plan goes ahead.
“I’m not a militant, but we will go out of business if the wharf is shut for this period of time, at this time of year,” he says.
“We get between 20 and 80 boxes of freight delivered from Sandspit every day, and there isn’t an alternative that I’m aware of.”
When Mahurangi Matters contacted the main wharf-based business operators – Kawau Cruises and Sandspit Cafe – they had had no communication from AT about the wharf closure.
“We’re really in the dark,” Kawau Cruises director Maree Pickett said. “It seems like such a strange time to do maintenance on a major wharf, just before Christmas. It would have made more sense in July or August when Camp Bentzon was closed and we’re not as busy.”
One of her main concerns is the inability to refuel if the wharf is pedestrian-only.
“You can’t fill a commercial boat with Gerry cans and it wouldn’t be cost effective to go anywhere else.
“We do a lot of transfers to Camp Bentzon and I doubt Sandspit Yacht Club would be keen to let us load and unload hundreds of kids from there.
“It will affect a number of islands, not just Kawau, and we’re shocked that we’ve had no consultation.”
Sandspit Yacht Club Commodore Rob Southey describes the decision to close the wharf at the busiest time of the year as “ludicrous”.
But like the businesses on the wharf, the club has only heard of the closure second-hand.
“It seems incredible that we’ve had to find this out via the grapevine and the wharf will close in two weeks time,” Mr Southey says. “The work should have been done in winter. Apparently the last time the wharf was repaired, it was done by volunteers and the wharf didn’t close at all.”
Mr Southey says he understands that AT is advising commercial vessels that they will be able to use the yacht club.
“They haven’t spoken to us about this though. There has been no thought whatsoever about the impacts of doing this at the busiest time of the year and it is beyond me why they have not consulted with us and the wharf users.
“Our wharves aren’t up to a standard to handle ferries and there would be Health & Safety issues. The whole thing will be a nightmare in the making.”