Hamilton City Council has thrown the Waipa Delta a last-ditch lifeline to stay in the city, but owner Mark Goudie has yet to decide whether it is enough to make him stay.
In a 6-5 vote last night, councillors voted to pay $300,000 to build a slipway on the Waikato River at Horotiu that could be used for vital marine surveys for the Delta and other river boats.
The proposal hinged on Mr Goudie removing rusting pontoons from the river and promising to keep his business in town for five years. But Mr Goudie, who left the meeting part way through saying the process was a "waste of time", was still torn on whether to stay or set sail for Auckland.
He told the Waikato Times this morning that what was offered wasn't enough.
"The recommendation that was in the report (which included upgrading facilities at Memorial Park) was the absolute minimum for me to stay. What they offered was really a token gesture, so that's it, I'm going, I'm gone. It's not enough."
But a phone call later in the morning from council chief executive Michael Redman wanting to discuss the issues one last time has provided hope the boat could yet stay.
"Based on that, I'll meet with Michael about it and think about it a bit more over the weekend. There could be some other avenues to explore yet."
Mayor Bob Simcock felt the proposal, which he tabled at last night's meeting, was a fair deal. "It leaves the options open for Mr Goudie. It's really in his hands now. It also gives us the chance to further investigate how to best utilise the river, which there is clearly a mood for around the council table."
Councillor Gordon Chesterman said the debate had gone "far beyond" the Waipa Delta.
"I do not believe this is about investing in a business. We have a responsibility to invest in the infrastructure. It's like the airport. Do we expect Air New Zealand to pay for an extension of the runway?"
He said if Hamilton lost the Waipa Delta it would be difficult to get another boat into the river with no infrastructure in place.
Councillor Roger Hennebry said the renewed focus on the Waikato River could be the "minor spark that could create the dream that goes back 40 years. The benefits for the city could be huge".
Councillor John Gower was mindful of the costs involved to ratepayers as city debt rose.
"Three to four years ago it would have been a no-brainer. But it's 2009, we've got debt problems, we are trying to keep our rates down as low as possible. I have grave reservations about spending any money at this particular stage."
Councillor Glenda Saunders said she was in no mood to bail out a private enterprise.
"Whilst it's an emotional issue, I'm absolutely very firmly of the opinion we do not save private business."
The iconic Waipa Delta has sailed along the Waikato River since 1985. Its last chartered trip is set for May 30.
Mr Goudie has investigated setting his boat cruise and restaurant business up in Auckland.
- Waikato Times