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A ferry operator using Motuihe Island as a "cheap shipyard" is being threatened with legal action by the Auckland Regional Council.

ARC chairman Mike Lee is angry that Waiheke Shipping Company owner Brett Subritzky's 40m Spirit of Waiheke car ferry has again been seen sitting on the sand at Ocean Beach on the northern side of Motuihe.

Mr Subritzky had already been warned about the practice, said Mr Lee. "He promised he would never do it again."

Mr Lee urged the Department of Conservation, which administers the island, to "get tough".

"This vessel is registered as a ship and they were carrying out welding today. Industrial-type activity on a scenic recreational reserve is not acceptable. If it was, it could be coming to a beach near you."

Large vessels landing directly on the beach could carry rats, jeopardising the ambitious conservation project underway on Motuihe which had cost millions, he said.

There was no "forensic evidence" that crew were doing maintenance work while the vessel was beached, said Mr Lee, but Motuihe Island Trust member Lawrence Thoms said he had seen crew doing anti-fouling and repainting of the hull while the ship was on Ocean Beach.

"Anti-foul is toxic and we object to the island being used as a cheap shipyard."

The trust is leading the plan to restore the island's native bush and wildlife, with support from the Outboard Boating Club of Auckland. Rats, cats and rabbits have been eradicated and it is hoped that the island will eventually be home to kiwi.

Mr Thoms said four previous incidents had been reported of vessels being driven on to Ocean Beach. In one case the vessel had stayed four days.

Crew on the Spirit of Waiheke would not speak to the Herald yesterday, instead referring inquiries to Mr Subritzky.

Mr Subritzky denied that anti-fouling work had been done on any of his ships beached at the island, although crew had done some painting of the interior.

He did charters to Motuihe using the ferry and also worked regularly for DoC.

After receiving a letter from Mr Lee yesterday, which said if he did not "desist from utilising this area for boat maintenance enforcement proceedings may be taken against you", he would meet the ARC and DoC.

There had been no contamination "at all" from work done on the ship.

"We didn't leave anything behind."

Mr Subritzky set up his Waiheke Shipping Company two years ago after his family's Subritzky Line ferry company was bought by the Australian firm KI Sealink.