Boat operators fear for livelihood as jetty closed

UNDER PRESSURE: Severe weather damage has forced the closure of Hannaford’s Jetty south of Coromandel.
UNDER PRESSURE: Severe weather damage has forced the closure of Hannaford’s Jetty south of Coromandel.

Frustrated charter boat operators are urging authorities to spend money extending an existing wharf in Coromandel after their "lifeline" was closed indefinitely yesterday.

Thames Coromandel District Council engineers are assessing Hannaford's Jetty south of Coromandel township after the 20-year-old structure was severely damaged in high winds on Wednesday night.

The jetty closure has caused problems for Auckland ferry service 360 Discovery, which is due to resume Friday-night sailings from this evening.

Manager James Bailey said the ferries would have to "nose-in" to neighbouring Sugarloaf boat ramp where passengers would embark and disembark via the bow of the vessel. But the Sugarloaf option does not sit well with Chris Dunn, the owner and skipper of charter business Coromandel Cowboys, who wants the council to put its money into extending the existing Coromandel township wharf.

"That way all the punters would travel through town and spend money there as well. There is far better infrastructure . . . it just makes sense," he said.

But council's Thames-Coromandel area manager Greg Hampton said no decisions would be made until engineers had assessed the damage to the jetty.

"Basically the current jetty is coming towards the end of its life, so we have to decide whether we replace it, or whether it's viable to continue to repair the facility," he said.

Funding for the jetty's replacement has been allocated in the 10-year plan but Mr Hampton said that funding was not available right now.

Mr Dunn said the jetty's closure was "a serious pain in the ass" as he juggled increasing numbers that peaked with nine boats during the busy summer season.

"Some of the other boats can head around and use Sugarloaf [wharf] but it's tidal and we can't use it running fibreglass boats," he said.

It is also a problem also faced by the team at Coromandel Fishing Charters whose skipper, Darron Thornton, agrees the ageing jetty was "past it".

"That wharf has been buggered for ages," he said.

"Every time a big northerly blows there is more damage but I really hope we can get a good result soon because if they do away with it altogether - that's my livelihood gone," he said.

Jenny Stone from The Mad Fisherman boat charters joined the chorus of voices calling for the Coromandel Wharf to be extended.

"We have been concerned about wharf facilities for some time now.

"It really is time something was done," she said.

Waikato Times