Wharf a safety risk, says councillor

A Southland District councillor is concerned lives will be at risk if urgent repairs of a Stewart Island wharf cannot be funded soon.

Stewart Island councillor Bruce Ford said Port William wharf was in desperate need of repair and, in its poor condition, was a safety risk to anyone who used it.

"It's getting very shaky. If it had a big boat beside it, it wouldn't stand up. It may be that if a bit of a storm hit, it would just float away, so we really need some sort of way to fund some repairs."

The wharf had been officially closed, but water taxis and tourists wanting to access the Rakiura track had continued using it, he said.

A report by Southland District Council area engineer Irwin Harvey shows the wharf will cost $80,000 to repair. The Stewart Island jetties subcommittee could not afford to fund the urgent repairs, and would have to join a long queue to receive district council funding.

Last year, the subcommittee had hoped the work could be funded by Environment Southland marine fees, which are paid by cruise ships visiting Southland.

After being told by Environment Southland the project would not be guaranteed any of this funding, the district council investigated other funding sources to repair the wharf, such as the Lottery Grants Board, Mr Ford said.

However, councillors had discovered many of these were not open to local authorities, and were at a loss at where to turn next.

He said although operators contributed to the upkeep of Stewart Island wharves, there was only so much they could pay. "It's not a lot of money and we have to do maintenance on some of the other bits and pieces."

The Port William wharf had continued to deteriorate and things were getting desperate, he said.

The district council was planning a meeting with Cruise NZ, the advocacy body of New Zealand's cruise sector, to discuss the Environment Southland marine fee and to also talk about the $5 visitor levy, scheduled to be introduced in October, he said.

Environment Southland maritime manager Kevin O'Sullivan said that to be considered for regional funding, the Southland District Council would have to make a submission on the regional plan about the wharf project.

He expected the council to make a submission on behalf of the subcommittee, he said.

The Southland Times