A piece of New Zealand's maritime history will close in April. The move was heralded late last year and is now certain. The Kawau Island Yacht Club, in Bon Accord Harbour in the Hauraki Gulf and owned by the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron, will close in April and the building will be mothballed.
Squadron Commodore Steve Burrett, of Warkworth, says he’s had a long association with Kawau and the island is 'very dear' to his heart.
'However, at the end of the day, the squadron can’t keep pouring money down a hole,' he says. 'We’ve had to make some hard decisions.'
At the club’s annual meeting in December, Mr Burrett said squadron members were subsidising the club with administration of its accounts alone costing $40,000 a year.
'Apart from the successful 60th anniversary races, no boating activities have been carried out by the club for many years and turnover from the store, bar and fuel sales have been falling year after year. Additionally, the number of people residing on the island has dropped over the last 10 years from about 400 to around 40, according to the last Census.'
Mr Burrett says the demise of the club has been caused by a combination of many things, including boats becoming more self-sufficient.
The squadron has held talks with both the Mayor Len Brown and Rodney Local Board representatives to make them aware of the situation. However, it’s been told that on the list of Council projects, the Kawau clubhouse would be a low priority.
Squadron general manager Joe Goddard says the building has become a safety risk and is in need of urgent repair.
Among the items listed for maintenance are the sewerage system, which could cost up to $250,000, the refrigeration system and the building itself.
'It’s difficult to put a precise figure on repair costs because any estimate depends on what’s deemed ‘acceptable’. I’m sure if we spent millions upgrading it to a five-star operation, visitor numbers would increase but that isn’t an option. Just getting it to an acceptable safety standard is more than we can afford.
'We’ve made our position clear to squadron and yacht club members, as well as home owners on Kawau.'
The current manager has already indicated a wish to retire.
About the Kawau Island Yacht Club:
Mansion House Bay, on the opposite side of Bon Accord Harbour, to the Kawau Island Yacht Club - and iIdyllic sailing destination - .. .
The Kawau Island Yacht Club, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2011, is understood to have held its first regatta in November 1951.
The subsequent New Year’s Day regattas became a social event on the island’s calendar. In their heyday, they were large family affairs with dinghy, sculling and swimming races for boys and girls, and men and ‘ladies’, as well as sailing races in several different classes and power boat races.
Early supporters of the club were the Lidgard family, whose family home in Smelting House Bay is now owned by the squadron and made available to members for holiday rentals. Chris Robertson, a nephew of the Lidgards, says that at the time the club formed, there were a number of boat builders living on the island including Brin Wilson and also some keen yachtsmen.