Creditors put heat on trust behind frigate dive attraction

The charitable trust that bought the Navy's last steam warship for $1 and sank it as a dive attraction in the Far North is fighting off creditors.

The Bay of Islands Canterbury Charitable Trust owes about $100,000 but letters from creditors seeking payment have been arriving since the ship was sunk in Deepwater Cove in the Bay of Islands last November.

Divers believe the Leander-class steam frigate, now 38 years old, will be one of the best wreck dives around the country. It is sitting virtually upright on the seabed in about 36m of water. It is in one piece and has attracted a lot of sea life.

Two other Leander-class frigates, Waikato and Wellington, have both broken up.

The bow section of Waikato has moved several metres from the main hull in Ngunguru, north of Whangarei, but Wellington has broken into three pieces and divers cannot get inside without risk.

Kelly Weeds, from the Bay of Islands trust, said Canterbury was not as popular as the bombed Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Matauri Bay.

"It has been a lifesaver this season because we have had a lot of rough days when we couldn't go to the Rainbow Warrior but we can take them to Canterbury," said Mr Weeds, who runs Paihia Dive HQ.

The ship was slightly deeper than originally thought and Mr Weeds said the trust was considering putting back in place part of the bridge tower, which was cut off to meet navigation regulations for the depth.

"We are thinking of having it welded back on so people can snorkel down and grab the top of the ship."

He said the trust was still short of money and was disappointed local businesses had not given more support.

He said members of his trust felt "absolutely gutted" when the ASB Trust, which had promised $50,000 to $80,000, pulled out within days of the sinking.

- NZPA

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