A Hunters Creek landmark, the derelict munitions barge, could disappear from the popular playground of boaties and water skiers.

Built in the United States during World War II from steel and concrete, it sank in its current position between Matakana and Rangiwaea island in the early 1970s.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council has agreed to include the removal of the barge in its 2018-28 Long Term Plan. It could cost more than $200,000.

A report from harbourmaster Peter Buell said removal would eliminate potential risks to the public and to the council's reputation if there were a fatal accident.


The barge had been included in the Hunters Creek ski area for many years without any significant incidents. The exception was when a jet ski hit the barge, severely injuring its two riders.

Buell said the barge was having ''benign effects'' on the marine environment. However, given its deterioration, the navigation risk was likely to change as the barge broke up or it fully submerged.

The council also agreed to temporarily exclude the barge from the Hunters Creek designated ski area.

Matakana Island kaumatua Hauata Palmer said he was leaning towards the status quo of leaving the barge. It was part of the scenery and removal would endorse the Hunters Creek ski lane which Rangiwaea islanders wanted to get rid of.

''It's not the skiing, but what they do at either end of the ski lane when they come ashore.''

Palmer was referring to complaints about pollution and fire risks that emerged in evidence from islanders during hearings on the council's navigation bylaw review.

He said it was a volatile situation at the height of the summer. ''They are doing some pretty silly things up there, particularly at the top end of the ski lane.''

Graham Hoete, aka street artist Mr G, says removing the barge from Hunters Creek is no biggie. Photo / File
Graham Hoete, aka street artist Mr G, says removing the barge from Hunters Creek is no biggie. Photo / File

Street artist Graham ''Mr G'' Hoete, who painted a mural on the side of the barge for a book featuring his portraits of 100 New Zealanders, said he felt ''a bit neutral'' about the removal of the barge.

He could see both sides of the argument and did not feel any emotional attachment to the barge because of the mural. ''For me, it was just finding locations that were out of the ordinary.''

The mural was half underwater at high tide anyway, although he said the half-submerged face looked cool. ''It's no biggie for me, no drama.''

Tauranga water skier Gene Hollands said the barge had been an eyesore for years, but it was not an issue for skiers because a sandbank had built up during the 25 to 30 years he had been skiing Hunters Creek. The channel used to be right up to the edge of the barge.

''Anything in the water is a potential risk, and if it's gone, it's gone. Accidents do happen.''

Removing the barge might help water flows and open up the area a little more for skiing. ''On balance, I am more in favour of it going.''

The bylaw review resulted in a rule to restrict skiing in Hunters Creek to the times outside of two hours either side of low tide.

History of barge
- Used in rebuild of post-war Japan.
- Transported parts in mid-1960s Auckland Harbour Bridge extension.
- Moved machinery and equipment around Tauranga Harbour.
- Purchased 1970 or 1971 by Neill Cropper & Co to store explosives.
- Sank in Hunters Creek after explosives store proved too heavy for leaky barge.
- Used as detonator store for Harbour Board blasting of underwater Tanea Shelf.