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Closure reflects super-yacht glut

SUSAN STRONGMAN
Last updated 05:00 18/01/2014

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The closure of Fitzroy Yachts' boat-building operation is symptomatic of the super-yacht industry's global demise.

Executive director of the New Zealand Marine Industry Association Peter Busfield said Fitzroy Yachts was one of three super-yacht businesses in New Zealand competing in an international market.

"All of them have suffered and reduced staff in the last few years," he said. "There are up to 7000 super-yachts sailing around the world now. Supply has caught up with demand."

He said an increase in demand for refitting super-yachts was a silver lining for the marine industry in New Zealand.

Fitzroy Yachts managing director Rodney Martin said that with customers coming from Europe and the United States, and a strong New Zealand dollar, the New Plymouth business could not keep up.

The company's former owner, Peter White-Robinson, said he was distressed to hear news of the closure, but said it was inevitable after the completion of the current project, the 37.5 metre yacht FY17.

"For the last few months it seemed likely that this would have to happen since they didn't have a boat to build," he said from Vancouver Island in Canada, where he is now living with his wife and two sons. Mr White-Robinson said his ownership of the business finished on May 24 last year.

Near the end of 2012 he and his family set off overseas on their $7 million boat Kahu.

He remained a director of Fitzroy Yachts until his ownership of the business ended.

"We started that business up in 97 and built it all the way up."

The single shareholder of the company is now Vanuatu-registered Fitzroy Yachts Holding Ltd.

In 2012 Mr Martin told the Taranaki Daily News Fitzroy Yachts needed to win a contract every year to keep the business going.

Speaking on Thursday, after announcing the news to the company's 120 staff, he said his decision was "extremely regrettable" but unavoidable.

"If you're a boat-builder and you don't have a boat to build, there's not much to be done."

Labour MP Andrew Little said the closure highlighted the need for a regional development strategy in Taranaki.

"Fitzroy Yachts is just the sort of high-value, high-skill-dependent business that this region and New Zealand generally needs more of.

"Its loss is a huge disappointment, not only to the talented workforce that has produced world-class high-end boats, but to the region as a whole."

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union spokesman Ross Henderson said only a handful of the staff were unionised. He had not heard from the union delegate which implied staff had seen the closure coming.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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