A row over the closure of the Sandspit Wharf this summer, for everything but pedestrian traffic, will be thrashed out at a meeting between Auckland Transport (AT) and wharf users this week.
AT drew a storm of protest after announcing that the wharf will close for repairs from October 9 to December 22, and again for a period in February/March.
The decision was taken without consultation with local commercial boat operators, Kawau businesses and residents, or the neighbouring Sandspit Yacht Club.
Kawau Boat Club owner David Lee was threatening before this week’s meeting to lie down in front of the bulldozers if the plan went ahead.
“I’m not a militant, but we will go out of business if the wharf is shut to vehicles for this period of time at this time of year,” he says.
“We get between 20 and 80 boxes of freight delivered from Sandspit every day, and there isn’t an alternative that I’m aware of.”
The main wharf-based business operators – Kawau Cruises and Sandspit Cafe – were equally astonished at not being consulted.
“We’re really in the dark,” Kawau Cruises director Maree Pickett said. “It seems like such a strange time to do maintenance on a major wharf, just before Christmas. It would have made more sense in July or August when Camp Bentzon was closed and we’re not as busy.”
One of her main concerns was the inability to refuel if the wharf was pedestrian-only.
“You can’t fill a commercial boat with jerry cans and it wouldn’t be cost effective to go anywhere else.
We do a lot of transfers to Camp Bentzon and I doubt Sandspit Yacht Club would be keen to let us load and unload hundreds of kids from there.
“It will affect a number of islands, not just Kawau.”
Yacht Club Commodore Rob Southey described the timing of the wharf upgrade as “ludicrous”.
“It seems incredible that we’ve had to find this out via the grapevine, two weeks before the wharf will close,” Mr Southey says. “The work should have been done in winter. Apparently the last time the wharf was repaired, it was done by volunteers and didn’t close at all.”
Mr Southey says he understands that AT is advising commercial vessels that they will be able to use the yacht club.
“But they haven’t spoken to us about this. There has been no thought whatsoever about the impacts of doing this at the busiest time of the year.
“Our wharves aren’t up to a standard to handle ferries and there would be Health & Safety issues. The whole thing will be a nightmare in the making.”
It is understood AT informed the Rodney Local Board and Kawau Residents and Ratepayers on September 15 that structural engineers had assessed the wharf and found that strengthening work needed to be done.
When the work is complete, the weight capacity of the wharf will increase from its current 10-tonne limit to a 14-tonne limit.
The first stage will involve strengthening and re-decking the main thoroughfare of the wharf. The second stage in February/March will involve re-decking the wings.
In response to concerns about the closure, Auckland Transport subsequently announced that the eastern side of the wharf will be kept open and accessible via a temporary scaffold walkway.
An AT spokesperson says that although the walkway will be for pedestrians only, the fuel tanker will be able to drive to the edge of the wharf and extend the fueling hose to meet the ferries. However, a source at the wharf says the hoses on the tankers are not long enough.