After 20 years of uncertainty, deal keeps Gulf Harbour Marina safe from developers

STUFF
After 20 years of uncertainty for residents, the Gulf Harbour Marina and Hammerhead will no longer be sold.

For the first time in almost two decades, Gulf Harbour locals can rest easy, knowing that their marina won’t be sold to private developers.

Auckland Council struck an agreement with Gulf Harbour Investment Ltd (GHIL) earlier this month to prevent the sale of the Gulf Harbour Marina and a piece of connecting land known as the Hammerhead.

The Gulf Harbour marina is New Zealand’s second largest marina, occupying 4.8 hectares.
Chris McKeen/Stuff
The Gulf Harbour marina is New Zealand’s second largest marina, occupying 4.8 hectares.

Under the agreement, GHIL has prepaid its ground rent through to 2088, in return for dropping its interest in purchasing the Hammerhead and marina land for development. This will ensure the protection of the marina berths, Gulf Harbour ferry service and other public amenities in the surrounding area.

There’s been tension over its future since a deal was made between the then-mayor John Law and developers in 2003 to build 300 four-storey flats on the land. The deal fell apart when it was revealed the council had no legal remit to lease the Hammerhead, as it was prohibited by the Empowering Act which set up the marina in 1977.

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The following years saw locals grow confused and concerned about the marina’s future, as GHIL made four attempts between 2004 and 2017 to buy the land for development. Two years ago the investment group offered a deal that would end the possibility of the harbour being developed.

The agreed and signed deal was announced this month, a win for the public who had fought to see the land protected. Kerry Inskeep, an Army Bay resident since 1973, said the agreement is a big success.

The Hammerhead is a local hotspot, used for a range of recreational activities by Gulf Harbour residents.
Chris McKeen/Stuff
The Hammerhead is a local hotspot, used for a range of recreational activities by Gulf Harbour residents.

“It’s a huge relief. I’m very grateful for the people that spearheaded the action. They relentlessly kept supporting our cause to return [the land] back to the public,” Inskeep said.

“There are many out here – young families, retired folks – people come out here to cycle and walk. It’s a wonderful place to have operating the way it is now. It works for all parties.”

The Hammerhead is 3.2 hectares of public-owned waterfront land, at the end of the 4.8 ha marina, which boasts the second largest berth in New Zealand. The space is used by the public for fishing, picnicking and cycling. The marina has been heavily used by boaties and commuters, who catch the ferry service linking the coast to Auckland City

Chairman of the Gulf Harbour Residents Association, Rod Klarwill, had been following the dispute since day one.

“We got involved and did our best to publicise what was happening. At the time I ended up taking a full page on the Rodney Times, just to acquaint the public to what was happening. We also published newsletters to members of the marine village,” Klarwill said.

“My reaction, indeed the same as the members [of the association], was one of absolute excitement. It preserves the integrity of the Hammerhead. Everyone is delighted!”

Albany Ward Councillors John Watson, left, and Wayne Walker. Watson says the council’s dealings over Gulf Harbour Marina have been “secretive”.
Stuff
Albany Ward Councillors John Watson, left, and Wayne Walker. Watson says the council’s dealings over Gulf Harbour Marina have been “secretive”.

Albany Ward councillors John Watson and Wayne Walker have been petitioning against their own council’s buying plans since they were elected in 2013 and 2010, respectively. Watson feels vindicated now the council has bowed to public demands.

“The secretive way that these attempted sales have been conducted should serve as a real wake-up call to the council when it comes to the sale of public assets like this marina,” said Watson.

“They need to be more transparent and abide by the legislation that these marinas were created by, which provides protection for the public good.”

Watson’s attention is now turned to Hobsonville Marina, where a similar narrative is unfolding. He’s joined with a number of local associations in submitting a complaint to council, for “questionable behaviour” in the council’s attempted sale of the land.

“For Marinas like West Park [now Hobsonville Marina], this agreement now sends a strong message that this should be retained in council ownership and control – they serve the same function. West Park is also a significant size. It should be treated equally,” said Watson.

A statement from GHIL said: “This provides us with a stable platform from which to plan. We see this as a very positive step.

“We are keen to see what Council might do with the Hammerhead.”