Council cash needed for wharf repairs

A Southland District councillor has called on Environment Southland to help pay for the repairs of a wharf on Stewart Island.

Stewart Island councillor Bruce Ford said the Port William wharf was in urgent need of repair.

He believed some of the money to fix it should come from the Environment Southland Marine Fee - a fee paid for by cruise ships visiting Southland.

The wharf, increasingly used by water taxis to drop off trampers for the Rakiura Track, has been fitted with a "closed" sign, but it is understood some water taxis still use it.

A report prepared for the Stewart Island Jetties Subcommittee by Southland District Council area engineer Irwin Harvey says the Port William wharf will cost $80,000 to fix.

The subcommittee did not have the funds to pay for the repairs and would have to get in a long queue with other projects that needed funding through the district council, Cr Ford said.

Using the Stewart Island visitor levy to pay for the wharf repairs would not be an option for another two years, he said.

"The wharf is an important part of the infrastructure on the island needed to improve visitor experience on the island and the marine fee should be used for visitor type things."

He said Environment Southland was projecting nearly $2 million to be generated for the 2012-13 cruise ship season.

"Fifty thousand dollars would help," he said.

An Environment Southland Cruise fact sheet cites contributions to Stewart Island's amenities as an example of where the marine fee can be used.

Environment Southland maritime manager Kevin O'Sullivan said the Southland District Council could make an application for funding through Environment Southland's annual planning process.

Funding was not guaranteed but any project would be formally considered on its merits by the full council, Mr O'Sullivan said.

Department of Conservation Southern Islands programme manager for visitor and historical assets Dale Chittenden said the wharf was a key access point for the Rakiura Track.

The alternative option was to walk to the head of the track but many people preferred taking a water taxi, he said.

With the Rakiura Track increasing in popularity by 30 per cent last year and a bumper season expected this summer, it was important the Port William wharf was repaired, Mr Chittenden said.

Mr Chittenden, who is also on the Stewart Island Jetties Subcommittee, said other means of funding were being investigated.

The Southland Times