Owners of baches face being stranded
Bach owners in Torrent Bay in the Abel Tasman National Park could be stranded by a decision from a commercial launch operator to slash its services to the area.
Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles has decided in the wake of an announcement that a limit will be placed on commercial services to Torrent Bay that it will cease all but one service a day from November when the new rules come into play.
The rules, designed to minimise disturbance to private property owners, mean water taxis and shuttles will not be allowed to pick up people from Torrent Bay, other than local property owners and their guests.
Torrent Bay, which hosts a small township of privately-owned baches and homes, has been designated a drop-off only point between 9am and noon for a maximum 300 visitors per day.
The Abel Tasman Foreshore Scenic Reserve Management Plan comes into effect in November after being signed off last week by a joint committee involving the Department of Conservation, the Tasman District Council and iwi.
The plan restricts visitor numbers and concentrates commercial activities at eight bays in the park. It aims to protect the park's 774 hectares of foreshore and enhance the experience of visitors and private landowners within the park's boundaries.
Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles now operates two trips daily to Torrent Bay and six per day in summer in large purpose-built catamarans, but will reduce the service to one daily stop, Sea Shuttles director Keith Knapp said.
The service frequently carries bach owners to and from their properties, on a beach-to-beach service from Kaiteriteri.
"If we can't get in there to pick up a number of people we're not prepared to pick up just one or two.
"It would be commercial suicide as far as we're concerned to keep going," Mr Knapp said.
He said the company had pre-sold trips and special events two years in advance and would now have to undo some of that.
"I don't think people realise what this plan is going to mean for `Joe Public', but it's ill-conceived.
"We will work around it but it will affect tourism dramatically," Mr Knapp said.
He said another reason for the decision to reduce the service to Torrent Bay would be the difficulty in explaining to visitors to the park they could not be picked up from Torrent Bay, but the boat could pull in to collect locals.
Torrent Bay township committee chairman Darryl Thomas, who welcomed the changes the plan would bring, said the Sea Shuttles service was one operator among others to provide a service for bach owners.
He presumed someone else would fill the gap if the Sea Shuttles pulled out.
"It's hard to say what the result will be. I know a lot of locals use them but I would say people will just use whatever option is available," Mr Thomas said.
Three companies currently operate four brands of service into the park, including Abel Tasman Wilson's Experiences and Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi.
Wilson's pulled its services out of Torrent Bay several years ago to ensure the community continued to accommodate visitors to the area.
Chief executive Darryl Wilson, who was critical of aspects of the reserve management plan, felt the rules applying to Torrent Bay were a fair solution to a particular issue.
He doubted bach owners would be left without a reasonable service.
"There'll be a service if there's demand... there will be a service of the level required to support Torrent Bay," Mr Wilson said.
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