Marine precinct plan tagged a flop

By John Cousins

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A $10million marine precinct planned for Tauranga's Sulphur Point is doomed to fail, property developer Ian Dustin says.
A $10million marine precinct planned for Tauranga's Sulphur Point is doomed to fail, property developer Ian Dustin says.

Tauranga's planned $10million marine precinct at Sulphur Point has been written off by property developer Ian Dustin as a gamble that will never pay.

Mr Dustin, who has been engaged in long-running court battles to build a marine village at the mouth of the Wairoa River, described the council-driven economic development initiative as a guaranteed business flop.

His submission to the Tauranga councils 2014-15 Annual Plan followed an economic analysis commissioned by Priority One that the marine precinct would pump $45million a year into the regions economy and create 195 jobs.

Funding for the precinct, which focused on a 200-tonne boat travel lift, was proposed to be split between the council from property sales and the Bay of Plenty Regional Councils infrastructure fund.

Mr Dustin warned that when it came to hard-stand refit area, recreational white boats and fishing industry grey boats did not mix:" You can't have a guy on a grinder while another boat is having a 16-coat finish."

The other lesson he took from talking to the manager of Gold Coast City Marinas hard-stand refit area was that it was vital that Tauranga's marine precinct sat alongside a marina. The manager told him the biggest mistake they made was the lack of size of the marina which was the feedstock for the whole operation.

Mr Dustin said Tauranga's marine precinct did not have and never could have a marina operation. Directors of a Tauranga boat-building business had told him their business would not be sustainable on leasehold land.

He highlighted the volatility of the industry, saying it had been decimated by the high value of the New Zealand dollar yet the council wants to become landlords to this industry and, furthermore, invest $5million.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said the project was still in its infancy, with a business case still being developed. He said the council did not own things to make a return unless it was a strategic project, and its role in the marine precinct was fundamentally as a facilitator. The current model was to either sell or lease the land on a commercial basis.

Clive Bennett, a spokesman for the New Zealand Marine Industry Association representing more than 450 companies, backed the precinct, saying it was an opportunity for the region to grow the maintenance and refit business, in addition to building new vessels. He disagreed it would need a marina next door to be successful.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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