St Arnaud centres in on classic boats

The foundations are being laid on a development at St Arnaud designed to enhance the village's growing reputation as a centre for classic boats in New Zealand.

The first stage of the complex will include a cafe, retail shop and a boat-storage area.

St Arnaud resident Pat Gelling, who with wife Wendy is behind the development, said it would one day accommodate a museum that showcased St Arnaud's history of boating, trout fishing, gold prospecting, gliding, skiing and tramping.

The couple have support from New Zealand Antique and Classic Boat Show organisers Pete Rainey and Glenn Common.

Mr Gelling said the development would create opportunities for St Arnaud, which needed more services for visitors and the growing resident population.

The Gellings, who run earthmoving firm Gelling Contracting, have also been involved in The Yellow House backpackers, St Arnaud Log Chalets and Nelson Lakes Shuttles.

"My interest is in St Arnaud as a community and destination. Wendy and I have been here for 20 years and feel the classic boats [culture] has large potential for St Arnaud," Mr Gelling said.

Mr Rainey said the development could set up St Arnaud as one part of the triangle that included Omaka, in Marlborough, and Nelson, of growing national interest for classic boat, car and aviation enthusiasts.

The area also had growth potential among people who enjoyed road touring and freshwater boating.

"What really interests me and what has struck a chord is the growing interest in boats that can be trailered and the focus on freshwater activities," Mr Rainey said.

Mr Gelling said the development might also include a workshop area, plus more retail space to service the community as well as hire outlets for skiing, fishing and mountainbiking equipment.

The boat storage will be a secure area, while the 80-seat cafe will have a classic boat theme and the shop will stock local art, gifts and products relating to the outdoors.

The Marlborough Express