Rotorua's Lakeland Queen given six months to move from dry-dock

12:04 pm on 26 January 2024
The Lakeland Queen sitting in dry dock at Sulphur Point Rotorua on 22 January 2024 The Daily Post Photo / Andrew Warner

The Lakeland Queen has been dry-docked on iwi-gifted land since October 2021. Photo: Andrew Warner / LDR

The owner of Rotorua's iconic Lakeland Queen paddle steamer has been given six months to move it from the iwi-gifted public land where it has sat since 2021.

The boat, which operated for 37 years as a tourism attraction before Covid-19 forced it into hibernation, has been called "an eyesore" with concerns the area will become an "old scrap yard" if it stays.

It comes after owner Terry Hammond was told he would need to pay to build a new jetty - at a cost of up to $460,000 - then gift it to iwi before leasing it back to resume Lakeland operations at Lake Rotorua.

He says he has been trying to sell the boat and has "no clue" what he will do.

Rotorua's mayor Tania Tapsell said iwi had allowed the boat to stay for more than two years, and the Rotorua Lakes Council had gone "above and beyond" to help Hammond.

The boat has been dry-docked since October 2021 on a slipway near Motutara Point in the Government Gardens - Paepaehakumanu, a reserve gifted by iwi in 1880. The council waived slippage fees.

During construction of the council's $40 million Rotorua Lakefront Development project in 2022 it was determined the Lakeland's jetty needed repair or replacement.

The council paid for concept designs for a new commercial jetty jutting off its structure and estimated it would cost $345,000 to $460,000.

Hammond opposed a proposal he pay for the jetty, gift it to iwi - who own the lakebed - and lease it back.

Rotorua Lakes Council active and engaged communities manager Rob Pitkethley.

Rotorua Lakes Council active and engaged communities manager Rob Pitkethley. Photo: Laura Smith / LDR

Committee decides boat must move

On 15 January, the council's active and engaged communities manager Rob Pitkethley sent Hammond a notice giving the deadline to move the boat.

Pitkethley wrote the council had allowed the vessel to remain beyond the initial 10-month permit while Hammond progressed options for its sale and/or removal.

"We have discussed this progress in the past and noted that an indefinite stay at Motutara Point would not be tenable."

Pitkethley wrote the deadline decision came from the Ngāti Whakaue Gifted Reserves Protocol Committee.

The committee is made up of three elected members and six Ngāti Whakaue representatives.

Pitkethley said concerns were raised at its 2 November meeting about the boat's "negative impact on the amenity and landscape values of the reserve and Lake Rotorua".

It wanted it removed and told Pitkethley to advise Hammond he could have no longer than an extra six months.

Pitkethley said the council would continue to support his efforts to have the vessel removed from the reserve but "may need to take further action" if it was not gone by 15 July.

"That is obviously not our preferred option…."

In the meeting's agenda, obtained under official information legislation by former Rotorua resident Justin Adams, Pitkethley wrote the Lakeland was for sale and there was interest but no definitive removal timeline.

Minutes in the agenda from the committee's July meeting included comments from a discussion about issues around the Lakeland Queen.

Pitkethley told the meeting an engineer found the Lakeland jetty was unsound and should not "have a ship of that size tied to it", and that the company had been told it could not operate there "as public should not be accessing an unsafe structure".

Pitkethley also summarised concerns Te Arawa Lakes Trust had about the Lakeland operations damaging the lakebed and needing a new jetty to operate again.

An iwi member described the site's value to the tribe.

"It is an eyesore to see the ship sitting there for over 18 months.

"This historical site is in danger of becoming an old scrap yard if the boat stays there indefinitely.

"Therefore it should be moved to somewhere else."

Lakeland Queen owner Terry Hammond stands on the boardwalk behind his jetty. The Daily Post Photo / Andrew Warner

Lakeland Queen owner Terry Hammond stands on the boardwalk behind his jetty. Photo: Andrew Warner / LDR

'Nobody wants it there, including us'

Hammond told Local Democracy Reporting he agreed in principle.

"Nobody wants it there, including us … it is not where it should be."

Hammond said even if the jetty was strengthened or rebuilt, he doubted he would be able to operate given Te Arawa Lakes Trust believed it damaged the lakebed.

In his opinion, it was clear the trust did "not want us to operate from the original position we have been operating in for 37 years".

Hammond said he was upfront with potential buyers about the situation.

"It has had many inquiries, but the boat only has value if it can operate on the lake."

Hammond said the boat - a "beautiful icon" - was in working order aside from minor break-in damage, and the engine was started weekly.

Of options for moving the boat, he said he asked several times where he could operate from.

He said the council suggested Motutara Point but he doubted he would get approval given the committee's stance.

Hammond was also not keen to operate there as the area became "a den of iniquity" at night.

"I have no clue what I will do."

The Lakeland Queen has been out of the water since October 2021.

The boat has been dry-docked since October 2021 on a slipway near Motutara Point in the Government Gardens - Paepaehakumanu, a reserve gifted by iwi in 1880. Photo: Andrew Warner / LDR

Committee chairwoman, Rotorua Mayor Tania Tapsell, said the council had gone "above and beyond" to assist Hammond.

"Iwi have also been understanding of the challenges faced by the business and have patiently allowed the boat to remain on their gifted land for over two years while Mr Hammond worked through the options available to him."

Tapsell said as he was unable to find a solution in that time, the council will support him to remove it within the timeframe.

"While some businesses have had a tough time over the past few years, tourism has been booming once again in Rotorua, with many telling us they've had a busy and successful summer.

"Supporting the continued growth of tourism and jobs in Rotorua remains a priority for [the] council."

A council spokesman said it had no comment further to the information it had provided Local Democracy Reporting in December.

Te Arawa Lakes Trust was approached for comment.

- LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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