Marina plans tread water

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You could say it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing. 

For almost 20 years Queenstown’s boaties have been pushing for a shipshape Frankton marina. 

The most recent project to receive the green light was eventually dropped last year. 

That was a $20m, 240-berth behemoth proposed by Christ­church contractor Buzz March. It was dogged by problems – failing to meet construction deadlines, Environment Court appeals and ultimately a lack of funding. 

Its failure saw seven years’ planning, hard work and anticipation ultimately come to nothing.
Now Queenstown Lakes District Council has gone back to before the drawing board. 

Its working party – which this time around will include boaties themselves – has again begun the arduous process of appointing a developer. 

The first task will be to complete a development brief including consultation, then publicly advertise for expressions of interest, then shortlist potential companies and request formal proposals, then evaluate those proposals, and finally appoint a development company – sometime around November this year. 

Boat owner Graeme O’Rourke, in his early 50s, keeps his eight-metre boat, Hook Up, in the small water channel next to the very basic existing marina facilities at Frankton. 

O’Rourke says: “It’s sort of freedom camping at the moment. 

“People pull their boats into little sheltered areas all around the lake – Kelvin Heights and other areas. 

“Where I keep my boat is nicknamed ‘the swamp’. 

“At this time of year lake levels drop considerably. We haven’t had rain and it’s a bit of a natural habitat in there and fills up with sludge and mud. 

“When it gets very low you get into that. With a fairly big boat your propeller can be churning it up and hitting things if you haven’t got your stern leg trimmed up enough,” O’Rourke laments. 

“It’ll be easier access with a new marina but I’m not sure on the timeframes now.” 

One proposal sure to be submitted is by consortium Lakes Marina Projects – local boatie Alan Kirker backed by American brothers Nasser and Iraj Barabi. The Silicon Valley entrepreneurs own a property on Queenstown Hill.

Kirker says: “I can tell you Lakes Marina Projects will be submitting a bid, a proposal for the Frankton marina.”
Its plans for a $3m in-shore marina were overlooked in favour of Buzz March’s proposal last time around. 

Stage one would involve digging out the current site for 52 berths. Stage two would see 30 more berths and stage three involves 50 off-shore berths enclosed by a breakwater. 

Local boaties have formed the Frankton Marina Association and put forward two names for the working party, chairman Tony Bennetts and Duncan Field. 

The association has written to the council saying its only interest is in an in-shore marina. 

Councillor John Mann, chairman of the working party, has been involved since a marina was first mooted in 1993. 

Mann says: “When Buzz March’s proposal failed to meet the deadlines, council determined at that stage to say all bets are off. 

“We’ve revisited the process because essentially the engineering that was on the off-shore proposal is doubtful.
“It is a difficult area to do both seismically and weather wise for an off-shore marina. It was going to be very expensive. We were building a marina on a lee shore, that’s not an ideal way. 

“We’re taking a deep breath and reassessing the whole thing. We have a broader range of funding options now, and we’ve determined to form a working party that actually involves users,” Mann says. 

“I’m pretty bullish that we’re in the right space to achieve something this time.” 

Mann believes Queenstown has an underused resource in Lake Wakatipu and is expecting many new submissions. 

“We’re hoping the community can get behind it because I’m personally convinced that unlocking the economic benefit of the lake is paramount,” he says. 

“I’m a yachtie and I’ve been boating on the lake for a long time now. You find places to go, day trips and such. 

And I think with a supporting network of moorings, it could be a wonderful activity centre. 

“Water sports, riggers, competitions, learning water skills could all be part of that support structure there. 

“The marina is one small step in developing the lake long-term.” 

Mann adds: “I don’t want to pre-determine what the submissions might be. We won’t dismiss anyone’s ideas.”