Abandoned boats a costly headache for Regional Council
Monday, 16 February 2015 10:00 a.m.
At the north end of Tauranga Harbour there’s a boat with a pohutukawa tree growing through its port window.
It’s just one of an increasing number of neglected boats languishing in Bay of Plenty waters – and it’s proving a costly headache for Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
As boat owners run out of time, money or interest, more boats end up left at the end of an often unpaid mooring, filling up with rainwater and rotting away.
Regional Harbour Master Peter Buell says the cost of maintaining a boat and paying mooring and servicing fees can often be more than both novice and experienced boaties understand or can afford. They end up with an expensive money pit moored in the harbour or marina racking up daily costs.
The old joke about owning a boat being similar to standing in a shower tearing up $100 notes isn’t far from the truth.
The Regional Council has had to dispose of a growing number of abandoned boats, and has three or four currently being investigated, he says.
“Each one is costly, not just in disposal fees but also the time spent trying to find owners and getting them to make a decision about their vessel. These are people’s assets, but we have them stored on temporary moorings, on the hard or sinking, which incurs more costs in getting them out of the water and disposing of them.”
Some need to be seized by the Harbour Master for unpaid fines or unpaid mooring costs. While a mooring may cost about $160 a year, every two years the moorings need to be serviced to remain safe, and this can be expensive, depending on component wear.
“Some boats have become part of a deceased estate, or have been on-sold to a new owner and we don't have any owner details. Under the Maritime Transport Act, we need to notify Police, fix a notice to the boat stating our intention to remove, publicly notify it and wait one month before the Council assumes ownership if we don’t hear from someone.
“We have to make reasonable efforts to identify the owner and notify them, including advertising in two issues of a daily newspaper. We also have to notify anyone with a financial interest in the vessel that we intend to sell it.”
He says most abandoned vessels are not in a suitable condition to be on the water, and are only fit for disposal. But that also means getting them out of the water and trucking them for specialised disposal in the Waikato.
“We can advertise them on Trade Me with a dollar reserve, but often potential buyers decide not to go ahead when they realise the amount of work and money it would take to get the boat seaworthy again.
“It’s a growing problem in all harbours, and in Auckland they would be dealing with about one abandoned vessel each week. The ratepayers end up picking up the costs, and they can be extensive.”
Mr Buell said the problem was not just in the harbours; Rotorua lakes also had abandoned boats. Lakes harbour Master Pererika Makiha said one boat had been sitting at Lake Tarawera for more than 20 years, and was half under water. Two boats had been removed recently and others had owners who couldn’t be found.
“If boat owners find themselves unable to care for their boat on the mooring, they should contact us first. Under our bylaws, boat owners remain responsible for the seaworthiness of their vessel and will bear the costs should the vessel sink on the mooring or break free and become a navigational hazard,” Mr Buell said.
“Transferring ownership to someone keen to take on this mantle of responsibility is in their interest, but this must be approved by the Harbour Master’s office.”
Boat owners can contact the Mooring Officer on 0800 884 880.