Anger at hike in port charge

A few Tasman District Council members would sell Port Tarakohe tomorrow to cut debt but "in the main that is not what the council is aiming to do", Golden Bay councillor Martine Bouillir said today.

Ms Bouillir was one of about 120 people at a council public meeting in the Pohara Hall last night to discuss a controversial plan to double charges to marina berth holders and also up the council's income from boat ramp users and the mussel industry.

Further development of the port is also mooted in a report by consultancy WHK.

She said users were "still pretty upset" at the proposed increases, to be voted on by the council on December 5, with marina berth holders feeling they were being squeezed out.

Golden Bay had a strong emotional connection and sense of ownership toward Port Tarakohe.

"Because of previous council actions around the port it is understandable that people are suspicious of motives but I can give reassurance that this isn't the case - in the mayor's words, we wouldn't be going through this whole exercise if that was our intention - we want to find ways to make the port self-sustaining."

Tarakohe Marina Association committee member Tony Lawton said the meeting delivered amessage of disapproval to Mayor Richard Kempthorne, who chaired it, and council officers, including corporate services manager Mike Drummond.

Mr Lawton said the hall was full and "it was only the five people up the front who thought their plan was reasonable".

"The rest were pretty much gobsmacked really that the executive of the council would put a proposal like that forward.

"The openly admit that they're basically just a monopoly and they'll charge what they like to recover their costs. There's no attempt to look at what the market is or to charge a fair price for their service."

There was the underlying issue of the port's $180,000 annual shortfall in income, most of which was related to debt servicing, and then a "complete smokescreen" in the WHK report.

It proposed a doubling in charges to produce a return of more than 7 per cent on revalued port assets.

"All they did was just keep repeating the same financial story and I don't think anybody really thinks it's a fair financial story.

"I certainly got the feeling that their executive officers aren't open to discussing their financial view of the port."

Mr Kempthorne said there was a lot of apprehension about what the council intended, "but also some really good engagement on what the council is trying to do".

Some "really good feedback" had come from council staff meeting stakeholders in Golden Bay yesterday and last night's meeting, and would result in a "slight rethink" of the financial model.

The aim was to make a decision next month on raising charges to deal with the annual loss, then discuss a development plan for the port.

"We do need to deal with the shortfall. The question is how we do that with the funding model - I wouldn't be at all surprised if it changes a little bit."

Pohara Boat Club commodore Craig Bishop-Everett said last week that if the council's proposal went through, Port Tarakohe would be the most expensive marina in the top of the south, and some berth holders would be forced out.