Auckland ratepayers are being asked to chip in $16.8 million for the local marine industry to get a bigger slice of servicing superyachts belonging to the world's rich and famous.
Superyachts, like the one being built for New Zealand's richest man, Graeme Hart, are currently being serviced in the water in Wynyard Quarter at Silo Marina.
Now a vacant block of land at Wynyard Quarter is earmarked for a $45.3 million facility to lift superyachts out of the water where a further $90 million of private investment and other facilities are expected to follow.
The council-owned body Waterfront Auckland is promoting the lift-out facility as a strategic investment to boost the city's marine industry in a partnership between itself and the private sector.
Waterfront Auckland chief executive John Dalzell yesterday said the cost of the lift-out facility would not generate a sufficient return for the private sector to do it alone, but the project would generate significant jobs and growth for the city.
The council body has a memorandum of understanding with Orams Marine, whose existing facilities are alongside the vacant site in Beaumont St, to become a private partner in the project with a $16.8 million council contribution.
Despite the project being buried in the draft long-term budget, it attracted 116 submissions, most of which opposed the idea of a ratepayer contribution.
The proposed contribution to the superyacht industry comes as Mayor Len Brown faces strong opposition to his long-term budget and a new rating system that will see rates increases of more than 10 per cent for about 127,000 households.
Mr Dalzell defended committing ratepayers' money to the project.
The biggest growth area in the marine industry was superyachts and it was estimated the refit facility would be worth $161 million over 25 years to the Auckland economy, the Waterfront Auckland leader said.
As well as the facility at Wynyard Quarter, there are plans for a 20ha marine cluster featuring 84,000sq m of boatbuilding sheds and a slipway for superyachts as part of the Hobsonville Pt development.
The superyacht facility at Wynyard Quarter has the backing of Mr Brown, who said a key part of the council's economic development strategy was a focus on exports.
"The council's involvement would be a catalyst to ensure private companies who wouldn't otherwise be involved have the ability to get on board," the mayor said.
But councillor Cameron Brewer was less than impressed by Waterfront Auckland's putting out its hand for $16.8 million.
"Interestingly, the superyacht industry doesn't seem to be lobbying us, nor is there much sign of the private sector wanting to throw money towards supporting such a facility," he said. "You really have to wonder if this is a priority for Auckland's suburban ratepayers at this time."
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* More marine-industry jobs and apprenticeships.
* More work for painters, fitters/turners and engineers.
* Hotels and restaurants benefit from visiting crew.
* Boosts Auckland and New Zealand's position in global marine industry.