The future of one of Auckland's most historic vessels is uncertain after its wealthy owners were told to shift it to make way for superyachts.

Darby Partners have been told by Auckland Council's development arm to move the 113-year-old Waitemata Harbour ferry Kestrel from a berth at Silo Marina at Wynyard Quarter to a private berth nearby.

"We have superyachts booked for Silo marina ... and they are booked to start arriving later in the next week," Panuku Development Auckland said in an email to Darby Partners last Friday.

Panuku has been ruthless and cynical about the Kestrel, arguably Auckland's most important heritage vessel still afloat on the Waitemata Harbour

Titan Marine have invested in a special mooring space for the Kestrel, but a company spokesman said it is unable to take the vessel unless it has insurance, which cannot be secured for the badly damaged ferry.

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The historic vessel - the last of the big double-ended Waitemata Harbour ferries - sunk at its mooring in 2016 and needs millions of dollars spent on restoring it.

Darby Partners, a private company which has invested more than $2 billion in golf courses like Te Arai, Millbrook and Clearwater resorts and other projects, wants to restore the vessel as part of a marine heritage precinct and boutique accommodation at Wynyard Quarter.

A company spokesman said Panuku Development Auckland is insisting the Kestrel be removed from its current berth, but could not be berthed at Titan Marine.

"Panuku has made it clear that no other berth was available," the spokesman said.

Without a mooring, the company has told the council it will have no option but to tow what is left of the vessel out to sea and sink it.

The Titan spokesman said the Kestrel is "not a dead duck", saying legal advisers for the company and Darby Partners are working to find a solution.

The Kestrel makes its way back to the Auckland waterfront after returning from Tauranga where the ferry was set up as a floating restaurant in 2004.
The Kestrel makes its way back to the Auckland waterfront after returning from Tauranga where the ferry was set up as a floating restaurant in 2004.

Panuku waterfront development director Katelyn Orton said in recognition of Kestrel's heritage status, the council body has worked with Darby Partners to find an alternative and more appropriate berthage location where it can be salvaged and refurbished.

After a year, it had partnered with Titan to create a suitable berth for the vessel on Hamer St, she said.

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Panuku is committed to preserving the waterfront's maritime history with work about to start on reviving the historic Vos boatyard for vessels to be worked on and restored.

Councillor Mike Lee, who chairs council's heritage advisory panel, said Panuku has been charging superyacht rates of $5000 a month for berthing the wrecked hull, while blocking a permanent place for the Kestrel.

"Rather than being caring and responsible, Panuku has been ruthless and cynical about the Kestrel, arguably Auckland's most important heritage vessel still afloat on the Waitemata Harbour," said Lee.