'Iconic' Lakeland Queen in liquidation: 'It's a sad day for Rotorua'

7:47 am on 20 March 2024
The Lakeland Queen is sitting in dry dock at Sulphur Point Rotorua.  22 January 2024 The Daily Post Photo / Andrew Warner

The Lakeland Queen in dry dock at Sulphur Point in Rotorua. Photo: Daily Post / Andrew Warner via LDR

Iconic Rotorua tourism paddle boat business Lakeland Queen has gone into liquidation.

It comes after the company ceased trading due to Covid-19 three years ago, and after its owner opposed a controversial direction to build, gift to iwi, then lease a new jetty in order to resume operations at Rotorua's Lakefront.

The vessel hosted tourist cruises on Lake Rotorua for more than three decades until pandemic border closures forced it into hibernation in 2021, with 15 staff made redundant.

It had since been drydocked on iwi-gifted Rotorua Lakes Council land but vessel owner Terry Hammond was ordered in January to remove it by mid-July after it was described as "an eyesore".

The Lakeland Queen (2006) company was publicly notified as being in liquidation on 11 March, with two accountants from BDO appointed as liquidators and creditors given until 22 April to make a claim.

Four days later, the Liquidators' First Report to Creditors and Shareholders was published.

It stated the company had been operating the paddle boat since 2006, providing catered cruises of Lake Rotorua for up to 210 seated guests.

The liquidation followed unsuccessful efforts to resolve issues with the site the company operated from and concerns it disturbed the lakebed, so it could resume operations, the report stated.

"In the absence of funding, the directors and shareholders resolved that the company be placed into liquidation."

The report listed several secured and unsecured creditors including Inland Revenue, Bell Tea and Coffee Company Limited, Fujifilm Business Innovation NZ and Watchdog Security Group.

The report's statement of affairs listed debts totalling just over $520,000 and assets valued at about $184,000 - but the values of some assets were withheld.

"It is too early to reliably estimate what funds, if any, will be available for preferential and unsecured creditors."

Options the liquidators would explore included selling the paddle boat, something Hammond had previously tried, the report stated.

No completion date was given.

Local Democracy Reporting approached Hammond and the liquidators for comment.

Lakeland Queen owner Terry Hammond. 07 December 2023 The Daily Post Photo / Andrew Warner

Lakeland Queen owner Terry Hammond. Photo: Daily Post / Andrew Warner via LDR

Rotorua Lakes councillor Robert Lee, who has advocated for Hammond including questioning the decision process to order him to leave the drydock on iwi-gifted land, said the liquidation notice marked a "sad day for Rotorua".

"Many locals, national and international visitors have fond memories of this beautiful vessel which has graced our lake since 1987."

Rotorua mayor Tania Tapsell said it was "sad to see the chapter closing for this iconic tourism attraction which has hosted many international visitors over the years".

"[The] council has done all we can to help Mr Hammond get the Lakeland Queen back on the water but unfortunately this hasn't been possible."

Tapsell said although it had been challenging for the Lakeland, recent years of investment in redeveloping the lakefront had been hugely positive for the district.

The council's infrastructure and environment general manager Stavros Michael said it would assist the liquidator regarding removal of the vessel from Motutara Point if/as appropriate.

He also reiterated it had done what it could, including trying to secure government funding, waiving slippage charges since 2021, making repairs to the old jetty, commissioning concept designs for a replacement one and offering to cover consenting costs.

Te Arawa Lakes Trust chief executive Daryn Bean previously told Local Democracy Reporting approval for lakebed disturbance, as would be needed for the Lakeland's channel, would be considered by the trust as the representative of lakebed owners.

He said there had been "open communication" with Hammond.

In 2006, the Rotorua Daily Post reported the purchase of the paddle steamer by a consortium, including Hammond, after the company that previously owned it went into receivership owing creditors more than $850,000.

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