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Dickson purchase a dream come true

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 12:30 08/12/2012

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A young couple with big dreams have taken on Nelson boatbuilding firm Dickson Marine.

Auckland boatbuilder Malcolm Coffey, 29, and wife Tracey, 27, combined their plans to move to Nelson with the opportunity to take on the business, which they aim to develop by building on its founding reputation.

The couple have bought the boatbuilding and refit part of the business for an undisclosed sum, while the previous owners, Harry Stronach and Geoff Butcher, have set up a new business, Nelson Hardstand Ltd, to maintain and develop the haulout facility and a portion of the existing hardstand area.

Mr Coffey said he and his wife had "gone out on a limb" to take on the business, and while there was an element of risk involved, they were confident it would work.

Mr Stronach said Nelson Hardstand would take on about three-quarters of the existing yard, and it would be run as more of a public facility. Travelift operator Pete O'Donoghue will stay on.

Boat owners will be able to work on their own boats in certain areas of the hardstand, but safety and environmental rules and regulations govern the types of work that can be done.

"Under the new arrangement, the ‘new Dickson Marine' will lease part of the yard, and the other three-quarters of it is going to be run as a public-type facility where contractors will be able to work on boats, but they will need a licence to ensure they comply to certain standards," Mr Stronach said.

Dickson Marine in Akersten St near the Nelson Marina was started by former Nelson yachtsman and boatbuilder Malcolm Dickson and wife Joan in the 1980s.

The Coffeys moved to Nelson a year ago to be closer to family, and ran boatbuilding business Projects Done Right, which sometimes contracted to Dickson Marine.

The transition to owning the business has fulfilled Mr Coffey's long-held dream from the days when he was an apprentice boatbuilder at an Auckland superyacht yard.

"I left school and went straight to a boatbuilding apprenticeship with Yachting Developments. After that, I went around a few yards. I've always wanted to own my own business," he said.

Mr Coffey said he had picked up business skills along the way from watching what had worked and what had not.

The couple will keep the name Dickson Marine because of its well-established reputation in Nelson and further afield.

"We aim to go back to basic business principles of high customer service and competitive pricing. We want to restore it to its former glory," Mr Coffey said.

The aim is to promote the business around the country and overseas, to attract more of a share of visiting boats to Nelson. The new owners also plan to modernise the look of the business by developing a brand logo and staff uniforms.

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"We'd like to see more boats from away come here, not only because it's a destination, but to get work done," Mr Coffey said.

Most of the existing staff will remain, except two boatbuilders and two administration staff. The business will be run with 11 staff, including Mr Coffey and Mrs Coffey, who will manage the accounts, and seven boatbuilders.

"The guys here have a huge range of skills and knowledge, and a wealth of yachting and boating experience," Mr Coffey said.

There were a few jobs already on the books to carry on with next year, he said.

- The Nelson Mail

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