Marina plan looks sunk but may be refloated

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Queenstown’s on-again, off-again Frankton Marina now looks off again – but, er, it could be on again later.
 
A recommendation by Queenstown Lakes District Council project boss Ken Gousmett to cancel a deal with Christchurch construction magnate Buzz March’s Queenstown Marina Developments is expected to be rubber-stamped at the council’s next meeting.

That meeting had been scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday) but has been postponed due to the snow until next week. 

QLDC signed a deal in 2006 with QMD to develop a $20 million, 240-berth marina – but despite agreeing an amended deal last year, March is now formally advising QLDC he can’t comply with various conditions. 

The major hurdle is funding, he admits in a letter to QLDC boss Debra Lawson. 

Local money has dried up with the downturn, March says, so he’s been searching offshore – without success. 

The funding failure and lack of compliance with other conditions gives QLDC the clear right to terminate the deal with March’s company, Gousmett advises councillors. 

However, in an apparent move to salvage the $2m that his marina company has spent on the project over the past five years, March has now brought a new player to the table.

Whangarei firm Mair & Associates bill themselves as “international maritime developers”, claiming to have developed 17 marinas with 6000 berths over 15 years – all self-funded, principal Tony Mair says. 

Mair is asking QLDC for a four-month grace period to do a “project review”. 

If that review pans out, Mair says he’d make a new deal with QLDC – taking March and his company aboard – “to complete the development in a timely fashion at our cost and risk”. 

Uh-uh, council’s Gousmett says. Gousmett adds that there’s no reason to grant any time extension – the existing deal should die a natural death – giving QLDC three options. 

The council could either readvertise for fresh expressions of interest – with Mair and March encouraged to make a pitch. Alternatively, the whole marina project could be shelved until the economy improves. 

The third option is for QLDC to go it alone without partnering anybody, Gousmett notes. 

Gousmett points out previous councils haven’t wanted to invest directly in the marina, preferring to make the reserve land available to a developer via a public/private partnership.