Nicole Kidman's yacht row

By Kathy Marks

It is one of Sydney's most prestigious apartment buildings, right on the harbour and home to a clutch of local celebrities, including, until recently, Nicole Kidman. Problem is, when the Hollywood star sold up, she left her $4.5m (NZ$5.3m) yacht behind - and her former neighbours are furious about it.

Strict bylaws regulate life at Pier 6/7 in Walsh Bay, a rejuvenated former wharf area containing some of the city's most expensive homes. The rules specify, among other things, where washing may be hung, and whether gulls may be fed.

One apartment owner recently fell foul of the block's governing committee for installing pot plants on his balcony. The bylaws also state that only residents can park their yachts in the adjacent marina. So why is Kidman's large boat, Hokulani, still moored there, nearly a year after she moved out? Favouritism, mutter disgruntled locals, who accuse the committee of turning a blind eye to its presence.

Sydney-born Kidman has long been the city's favourite daughter but her reputation has taken a battering in recent weeks. Her latest film, Australia, in which she plays an English aristocrat who inherits an outback cattle ranch, has been panned around the world. Last week, she was condemned by Aboriginal leaders for playing the didgeridoo n an instrument generally considered to be reserved for men n on a German chat show. Now comes the Melrose Place-style drama on her home turf.

The star, who still owns a waterside mansion in Sydney's affluent eastern suburbs, is apparently well aware that Hokulani is breaching regulations. A spokesman for Kidman told the Sydney Morning Herald that the boat had been left at the marina because she had contemplated buying another apartment in the same block, which did not happen.

The spokesman claimed the boat would be moved next week, and denied that Kidman was "trying to take advantage of the situation". "The [governing committee] would never do anything just because it's her," he said.

An adviser to the owners' corporation, Wally Paterson, agreed the yacht's continuing presence was a breach of bylaws but insisted he was "absolutely adamant everyone gets treated equally no matter who or what they are".

Pier 6/7 is home to, among others, Ryan Stokes, the son of the Australian media magnate Kerry Stokes, Paul Cave, who founded the hugely popular BridgeClimb over Sydney Harbour, and a glamorous former television news anchor, Mary Kostakidis. Kidman's fellow Hollywood star, Cate Blanchett, is co-artistic director (with her husband, Andrew Upton) of the nearby Sydney Theatre Company in Walsh Bay.

Ms Kidman, who recently had a baby daughter, Sunday Rose, with her husband, the country singer Keith Urban, lives mainly in Nashville. She jets into Sydney frequently to see family, and usually spends Christmas there but said recently that she would be staying in Nashville because she was upset by negative reviews of her role in Australia, directed by Baz Luhrmann. One friend was quoted in the Australian media as saying: "She's been so upset. It really has devastated her."


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