Duck likely to keep operating

By Doug Laing


Popular tourist craft the Bay Duck and the Hawke's Bay Wine Country Cat are expected to continue operating in and out of the Napier inner harbour despite a company receivership and plans to sell the vessels.

The hopes were confirmed yesterday by Auckland insolvency practitioner John Gilbert, appointed by Whakatane-based Asset Finance as receiver of Experience Hawke's Bay Ltd.

He and company operator Russell Mogford both said it's a viable operation with "good contracts" to continue operating through the summer, mainly the amphibious Duck and its one-hour tours mixing the sights from the streets of Napier with those from the sea.

The 34-seat Duck is heavily booked during the cruise season, and with the first of about 65 visits, business is hotting-up with up to three excursions a day. Yesterday it was seen picking-up customers from Marine Parade, and travelling by road to launch into the inner harbour at Ahuriri.

The secured creditor receivership took effect on November 12, and yesterday the receiver put the company and assets up for sale, including the Duck and a 33-seat bus.

Asset Finance is also selling a 21-metre catamaran, licensed for up to 110 passengers, owned by partner company Bay Cruises NZ Ltd and used mainly for charter operations, such as twilight cruises along the Napier coast.

Started by former policeman Rob Mortensen 10 years ago, the business brought the catamaran, originally named Island Princess, from Tauranga in 2003, and in 2007 introduced to Hawke's Bay the Duck, brought from Paihia, in the Bay of Islands.

The venture was sold to foundation employee and career fisherman Mr Mogford and a silent partner in 2008.

Mr Gilbert said it's now for sale as a going concern, with the support of the funder, and continues running with co-operation from Experience Hawke's Bay and its staff.

He said all services and bookings were being honoured throughout the summer, and added: "This is a story about a funder who wants to see it continue."

Expressing faith in the potential of the exclusive scenic excursions, he said: "There is a good and viable business for someone."

Mr Mogford said it had been a "tough job" getting the operation going after earlier financial problems, and it "won't help" competing with the Napier City Council and its Art Deco buses, expected to be brought into service in the new year after an introduction delayed several months by safety and fitting problems discovered two months ago.

"The contracts are too good not to be operating," he said. "But I was never meant to run this sort of thing. I'm going back fishing."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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