Boat centre boon for St Arnaud
The foundations are being laid on a new development at St Arnaud, designed to enhance its growing reputation as a centre for classic boats in New Zealand.
The first stage of the new classic boating complex is being built in the village, which will include a cafe, retail shop and a boat-storage facility.
The complex has been designed to one day accommodate a museum to showcase St Arnaud's "rich history" of boating, trout fishing, gold prospecting, gliding, skiing, tramping, and the input of the area's early settlers, St Arnaud resident Pat Gelling said.
He and his wife, Wendy, are behind the development, with strong support from the organisers of the New Zealand Antique and Classic Boat Show, Pete Rainey and Glenn Common.
Mr Gelling said the development would create new opportunities for St Arnaud, which was a "lovely destination", but needed more facilities for visitors and the growing resident population.
The Gellings have been involved in various businesses in St Arnaud, including The Yellow House backpackers, St Arnaud Log Chalets and Nelson Lakes Shuttles. They operate earthmoving business Gelling Contracting.
"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 had the potential to create a boon for St Arnaud as one part of the triangle that included Omaka in Marlborough and Nelson, which was of growing national interest for classic boat, car and aviation enthusiasts. The area also had growth potential among those who enjoyed road touring and freshwater boating activities, such as those offered by Lake Rotoiti.
"I'm aware the maritime museum is a major deal in Auckland, and we're not talking that scale, but 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.
Longtime tourism business operators Alexandra Unterberger and Leighton Marshall, of the Alpine Lodge in St Arnaud, said they had not seen plans for the new development, but if the idea worked, it would benefit everyone.
They felt the focus should be the museum, which would be the main point of difference for the village.
Mr Gelling said the development might also include a workshop area for boat maintenance and boat-building courses, plus more retail space to service the community as well as hiring outlets for skiing, fishing and mountainbiking equipment.
The boat storage will be a secure facility, 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.
Mr Rainey said the storage facility was the first step on the pathway towards establishing a centre for classic boats in New Zealand.
"It will bring life to the lake's rich boating heritage, help grow classic boating nationally and showcase some of the really classic boats," he said.
"It's a unique concept in that it features small craft, especially historic racing boats and the emphasis is on freshwater boating rather than maritime."
Completion of the boat storage facility is expected about the end of January, with the cafe and retail space ready by March to coincide with the classic boat show.
The Nelson Mail