The Bay of Plenty marine industry’s new boatbuilding and maintenance base at Tauranga’s Sulphur Point is now open for business, providing a better service to boaties as well as business, employment and tourism benefits to the region.
Vessel Works, as the facility is branded, is an $11.
4m joint venture between local government and business partners involved in the project.
These include Hutcheson Boatbuilers, Pachoud Yachts, Pacific 7, Specialised Metal Fabricators, and Super Yacht Coatings.
Its development was announced in 2014 as a response to the loss of key facilities, including the Port of Tauranga slipway, resulting from the construction of the second Tauranga Harbour Bridge.
The centrepiece of the development is a 350 tonne travel lift – easily the largest and most sophisticated in the country.
In addition to its lifting capacity it has greater-than-usual width.
which allow it to handle multihull vessels.
The hardstand has the space to cope with at least seven vessels more than 30m in length, an ecologically responsible drainage system that collects and processes all water discharges and recycles water used in the washdown area, and all key boat service and maintenance operators conveniently on-site.
“We think this is a huge opportunity for Tauranga and for New Zealand,” says New Zealand Marine Industry Association’s executive director Peter Busfield.
“Around the world, in Australia and in Europe, they’re building precincts like this – so it’s great to have New Zealand right up there with the professionalism that a brand new precinct brings.
”Peter is impressed with the potential of Vessel Works to compete in the lucrative global marine service industry.
“When you build a situation like this with the haul-out facilities the work will come.
That’s proven worldwide.
And already I returned from overseas last week and spoke to a customer coming to Tauranga to have their refit done.
“So it’s not only local boats or NZ boats but this will bring in export earnings to Tauranga.
In the Southern Hemisphere, NZ is known as the best quality for refitting and servicing large vessels, and now with this facility we’ll be able to grow that business.
”Peter sees Vessel Works as complementing rather than competing with Auckland’s marine service infrastructure.
Auckland is oversold – there aren’t enough facilities.
So you’ll have boats from Auckland coming down here and boat-owners will be pleased to have these facilities.
”The modern, clean environment is one of the striking features of the facility for Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless.
“The first thing that struck me is that it’s a complete change from the boatyards of old, which were notorious for rubbish, oil, tar, you name it, lying around and polluting the waterways.
“But this is just so clean, and I think by keeping it clean it means it’s going to attract a good quality boatbuilding industry here; servicing people’s boats, sending them away, and not impacting on our harbour detrimentally.
”Greg believes the precinct will create around 130 new permanent jobs directly, in addition to the flow-on effects for employment and training opportunities in downstream businesses.
Don Mattson, who is managing director of long-standing Tauranga company Hutcheson Boatbuilders, says the main thing for his business – and, more importantly, the local marine service community – is that they now have their own facility.
“We’ve had very good facilities at the bridge marina and the Sulphur Point marina, but this gives us the next step that we’ve been missing for a number of years.
We can get some of our old customers back, and also look for new customers.
“Our customer base has always been Tauranga, and Whitianga, Coromandel, Whakatane, Gisborne, Napier.
We’ve always had a regional group of clients, and we’ll get those back in time.
And with this we can go for bigger boats, and retain some old customers from Tauranga who’ve moved up into bigger boats and would have gone out of town for servicing.
“The other thing is that with the wide beam travel lift we can handle sailing catamarans.
For years Tauranga’s never been able to haul them out, but we’ll be able to do that now.
“So that’s a growth area for Tauranga.
”The development of Vessel Works means they’ll be looking to increase their new construction inventory, says Don.
“Our focus for many years recently has been repairs and maintenance, and that’s a big part of our business and an important part, which we want to grow.
But we’re looking to grow back into new builds, and also working with importers in assembling imported boats.
”Peter further highlights the tourism benefits the Bay of Plenty region can expect from the development.
“With the America’s Cup we’ve got the focus on NZ, and we’re going to be short of facilities.
So I’ve got the feeling that Tauranga – you’re going to be booked out.
It’ll be good for the business people that are here, and for the whole region.
“You’ve got the largest travel lift in NZ, and then lovely bars and restaurants and golf courses and wineries.
“And you’ve got the surf beaches, Mount Maunganui, and the other regions from Whakatane to Rotorua; so it’s a great opportunity for some of those international superyachts in particular to experience this region while they’re having their boat refitted in the new Vessel Works Sulphur Point marine precinct.