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In happier times: Geoff Hunt pictured after buying NZL 14 in 2017

By PHILIP CHANDLER

Queenstown council’s plan to sell or dispose of a former America’s Cup trial yacht could hit choppy waters.

Moored in Queenstown Bay, NZL 14 – built for New Zealand’s 1992 America’s Cup challenge – has been declared abandoned by the council, presumably because of unpaid mooring fees.

However Aucklander Geoff Hunt, who bought the yacht for a confidential sum, three years ago, disputes that it’s been abandoned, saying it’s been maintained ever since by Queenstowner Blake Round.

He says he also hasn’t received an account for mooring fees, and adds there’s a $600,000 mortgage on the boat “in favour of me”.

As a result, he intends challenging the council’s ‘notice of intention of sell or otherwise dispose of’ the yacht.

Asked to comment on whether the notice has been issued due to unpaid mooring fees, a council spokesperson said it couldn’t provide further details “at the present time”.

Hunt bought the yacht, with a 35-metre tall mast, to use as a training boat for disadvantaged youth, but said at the time it needed about $100,000 of restoration work.

In 2018 he registered a charity, ‘NZL 14 Youth Aid Foundation Queenstown’, and put ownership of the yacht into a company, NZL 14 Youth Aid Ltd, which he’s sole shareholder of.

It’s thought the boat still needs repair work to make it ship-shape again.

It was originally brought to Queenstown in 2005 by Auckland-based Sail Queenstown Ltd, which used it for tourist excursions on Lake Wakatipu.

In the course of five years it covered more than 12,000 nautical miles and took about 10,000 passengers, but then stopped operating.

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