Skipper and school consider sailing students from Great Barrier Island after ferries halted

By Sam Hurley

A parent said Pompallier Catholic College proposed hiring a skipper to sail the students back from Great Barrier Island this afternoon. Photo / File
A parent said Pompallier Catholic College proposed hiring a skipper to sail the students back from Great Barrier Island this afternoon. Photo / File

A group of school children are facing a rough sea voyage from Great Barrier Island this afternoon as severe winds and rain hits the upper North Island.

Twenty one students from Whangarei's Pompallier Catholic College have been camping on the island and were due to leave via ferry today.

However, severe weather forced blanket ferry cancellations to the island.

A parent spoken to by the Herald said the school proposed hiring a skipper to sail the students back to Whangarei Harbour - a five-hour journey - this afternoon.

A police spokeswoman said Maritime Police had liaised with Maritime NZ who have been discussing the situation with the skipper and school principal, Richard Stanton, throughout the day.

She said the decision about whether to sail or not is "ultimately up to the skipper of the vessel".

A Maritime NZ spokeswoman said the skipper and Stanton were given advice to keep the students on the island for another night, or consider a different destination.

She said the pair have since agreed for the skipper to sail the 16 metre vessel two and half hours to Sandspit, east of Warkworth.

"[Maritime NZ] is happy they've made a sensible decision to amend their passage plan to suit the conditions."

She said alternative destinations to avoid the worst of the weather included Sandspit or Marsden Cove, but the poor conditions would create an "unpleasant journey".

Stanton has been approached for comment.

However, a member of the school's staff said Stanton and deputy principal Greg Mutton were currently driving to Sandspit in a minivan to collect the students.

One worried parent earlier told the Herald, "my boy is not going on that bloody boat".

"We'll fly him back in the next day or so when it's safer."

He said contact with teachers on the island and the school had been difficult.

Police confirmed the vessel and skipper are surveyed under the Maritime Operators Safety System.

MetService forecast possible thunderstorms and rough weather for the Hauraki Gulf. Graphic / MetService
MetService forecast possible thunderstorms and rough weather for the Hauraki Gulf. Graphic / MetService

Sealink, which operates the Great Barrier Island ferries, has cancelled ferries to and from Great Barrier Island since Wednesday as severe weather continues to hit the upper North Island.

In an "urgent update", Sealink said four sailings were cancelled "due to poor weather conditions".

Today, an 8am from Auckland to Tryphena, on Great Barrier Island, was due to return at 3pm, but was cancelled.

Tomorrow, a sailing from Auckland to Port Fitzroy, on Great Barrier Island, was scheduled to depart at 7am and return at 3pm, but was cancelled.

MetService continues to have a strong wind warning in place for the area from Bream Head to Cape Colville.

Easterly winds of 30 knots, gusting 40 knots will continue throughout the day, easing this evening, according to MetService.

The MetService Colville coastal forecast for Bream Head to Great Mercury Island was for easterly winds of 30 knots, easing to northeast 15 knots this evening.

Rough seas, including a 2 metre swell were also expected to ease this evening.

There was also northerly swell of 1 metre, and poor visibility in rain, with possible thunderstorms forecast.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 24 May 2017 02:19:50 Processing Time: 613ms