24 Mar 2016

Nelson marina charges could be doubled

9:16 am on 24 March 2016

Nelson boaties could have to pay twice as much to tie up in the city's council-owned marina. The city is considered one of the cheapest places in the country to park a boat, with an annual cost of around $2500 for a small vessel each year.

The city council is planning to spend around $5 million developing its marina over the next decade, and wants to free up more spaces for visitors.

nelson marina

The Tasman Bay Cruising Club overlooks the Nelson City Council owned marina which houses close to 500 boats. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

A newly released strategy document reveals berthage fees could be doubled as part of the funding plan, as a way of forcing out some to make room for development.

Nelson mayor Rachel Reese said the marina an important asset but was not functioning as well as it could.

Although the plan places an increased focus on the worth to the city from visiting boats, Ms Reese said it was not the council's intention to make the marina accessible only to the wealthy.

The council-owned marina can house up to 500 boats and is almost full, and in the last 10 years the marina and associated land generated a $2.5 million profit for the council.

The strategy wants to reduce the number of annually rented berths from around 490 to 402 and increase the number berths available to visitors to 117.

Another option in the strategy was to doubling annual marina berth rates, with an estimated "discouragement effect" of freeing up 27 berths for visitors.

The strategy said extra visitors to the marina would stimulate the Nelson economy because they would spend on goods and services, and on boat maintenance and supplies.

She said the council was gradually building its city to sea links, and the marina right at the edge of town was the next logical step.

"We've got to really think about not just being the standard model marina. We have to identify - and the report focuses on this, what sets it (Nelson) apart. We need to really build on the opportunity now," Ms Reese said.

Nelson Rowing Club

Nelson rowers are among a growing number of recreational users competing for limited space at the Nelson Marina. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

The Nelson Water Sports Review produced by Sport Tasman for Nelson City Council in 2013 identified an 80 percent growth in clubs from the 1960s, with 60 percent of this growth in the last 20 years.

Steve Thomas of the Nelson Marina Berthholders Association said boat owners were worried by the plan.

"The issue we've got is that a lot of berth holders are getting older. Some are on fixed incomes and they struggle and it's getting harder for them to afford and justify owning a boat. When there's talk of raising fees it tends to get their hackles up straight away."

Mr Thomas recalled the reactions five years ago when the council tried to raise marina fees by 15 percent to help offset a residential rates increase. The furious response forced a council back-down.

Mr Thomas, a local boat-broker who regularly visits marinas around the country, said the plan for Nelson was largely positive, but it was too focused on being a destination for visiting yachts. He said Nelson did not have a point of difference on that front.

Local boat owner Steve Hawes agreed.

"Cost for visitors to berth their boat now would put many off, and it's not a great place to fix your boat because there's not enough competition here."

Nelson Rowing Club coach Tim Babbage said the concept was good but it needed work, particularly in the safety of small boats.