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Trouble at Wharf

Many will have wondered for a very long time what on earth goes on at the wharf.

The advent of fish and chips in the delightful setting at the mouth of the river has given rise to more questions than answers.

Here are the parties involved, as I understand it::       

  • Marina Society, Thames Sailing Club,
  • Ngati Maru Runanga
  • The Fish Shop and Fish Processing facility lessee
  • Boat owners in the Marina and on the Hard Stand.
  • Various other parties with leases in the area.

There have been a number of accusations by various parties, and is often the case in this town, a number of vested interests both incorporated and unincorporated, individuals who have accumulated unofficial status, and a confusing overlay of leases, sub leases, and moving boundaries are involved.

Don’t ask – don’t tell, appears to have been a guiding principle for a very long time.

Before any one of these parties accuses me of stirring up trouble, let it be clearly understood that trouble at wharf is already brewing and any chance of these matters being easily resolved, or buried is long past. In any case, it is public land, and we are entitled to know the facts surrounding its governance. 

This is the situation, as I understand it:

  • Waterfront strollers will be aware that there appear to be a number of people permanently and illegally occupying boats tied up in “berths” in the marina, a number of which appear to be un-seaworthy, and likely to undertake a one way trip to the bottom if anyone dared push them out of the mud.
  • Authority over such occupation of the Marina, being foreshore, lies with EW, but that organisation  appears unwilling to exercise such authority.
  • On the other hand, Crown land, other than railway land under the control of LINZ, is leased by DOC to TCDC who in turn sub-lease to the Sailing Club, who in turn have “arrangements” with the Marina “Society” which represents the occupiers of the berths, and hard stand. The latter may or may not be attempting to gain greater influence at the Sailing Club in order to progress their claims.
  • Berth holders, some of whom, as indicated, appear to “live on”, regard the toilet and shower facilities as inadequate and/or badly maintained by the Sailing Club, but accusations are also made that involve failure to account, or to provide even basic facilities at the marina in return for the fees that they pay. 
  • These matters have recently been subject to heated behind the scenes debate, but it is not at all clear that the parties involved are fully aware of the various competing interests in the background, and the question as to whether the issues between the Sailing Club and the Marina “Society” can be resolved is moot.
  • In addition, the long time Harbour Master appears to operate the “pull out” facility at the Council ramp that adjoins the fish factory on behalf of the Sailing Club at $70 a tow. The proceeds, along with the Marina berth fees ($2-300 each a year) must amount to a sizable income for the Sailing Club.
  • TCDC also has the head lease on the land occupied by the wharf and fish factory/shop that apparently processes fish from the seven or eight remaining local fishermen, and from elsewhere. The locals now dory fish off Peninsula beaches rather than tie up their vessels at the wharf as was the case when it was renovated by the Council at a substantial cost several years ago. They of course own the quota and are free to dispose as they see fit. Moana Fisheries clearly have a role – is it their trucks that come and go from the wharf.
  • The land occupied by the fish company that is sub-leased from TCDC appears flexible – tables with umbrellas have suddenly appeared (a great facility by the way!) on space between the buildings. This lease was only recently negotiated by TCDC, with new owners of the business, and as far as I am aware is “footprint” only, and does not include the al fresco dining, and parking areas.
  • Then there are the boats that tie up at the wharf that are supposed to pay $10 a day for the privilege to the Harbourmaster (employed by EW and TCDC jointly).  Presumably, these proceeds find their way into TCDC coffers. They should be quite substantial judging by the number of decrepit vessels that spend long periods tied up.
  • Finally, Ngati Maru – the Runanga clearly has a major interest in all the land leased by DOC and On Track (LINZ) because of the likelihood that it will form part of the imminent Hauraki settlement. The lease to the Sailing Club may need to be re-negotiated depending on the plans that Ngati Maru may have for future development of the undoubtedly valuable land currently under DOC and LINZ control.
  • Attempts have been made by TCDC to negotiate with On Track (LINZ) regarding the all-important access over the old railway land that has never been formalised, and which constitutes a substantial risk for any occupants/leaseholders to the west of the railway.
  • The situation is further complicated by some fairly hairy surveying dating back over a hundred years, particularly as the bank of the river has reportedly pushed the edge of the Marina out to the west following the river course. 

So there you are – an inadequate explanation I know, leading to more questions than answers.  With any luck, “interests” will emerge in due course to tell me just where I have gone wrong.

That would be great, but I cannot possibly guarantee any greater clarity will emerge.

Here’s hoping - watch this space.   



As expected, TCDC is first off the mark through John Rich - Community Services Manager.

By no means does it clear up all the issues - certainly 5. and 6. bear further investigation, together with questions regarding how money is collected, and spent. I made no mention, by the way of any arrangement between the Marina Society and TCDC.

But good one, and thank you John. I attach his email here in full.

Hi Bill
You asked me to comment on your article concerning Thames Wharf, with regard to accuracies.  Thanks for the opportunity.  Here are my comments on the subject
1.  Nearly all of the land above the Mean High Water Springs (MHWS) around Thames Wharf is owned by the Crown.  LINZ appears to be the crown agency tasked with administration.  I am not sure what the "marina's" occupancy arrangement is with the Crown. 
2.  The foreshore and seabed below MHWS is vested in the Crown, and administered by DoC. 
3.  EW's statutory role is in the management of navigation safety and river and stream clearance only.
4.  TCDC does not have a role in any management of land in the area, with the exception of the small "land-locked" titled parcel which the fish wholesaler currently occupies in a grade two historic places listed building (also TCDC owned) Incidentally the "outbuildings" are not owned by TCDC but are legally established. 
5.  TCDC no longer leases any land from LINZ, including the boat yard. I have heard that LINZ has leased the land to Ngati Maru who in turn lease the land to the boat club, but cannot confirm this.  
6.  TCDC has successfully negotiated an access license to its one "land locked" site across the On-track" rail corridor, including the boat ramp.  As for the other parcels not owned by TCDC - who knows what they have negotiated?
7.  TCDC has no formal arrangement with the "Marina Society". 
8.  TCDC has no legal right to collect fees and charges from the "permanents" unless they are moored to the wharf. TCDC councillors have agreed to annual charges of $177.78 per year, or $490 for commercial.  Daily charge is $9.77 (plus GST).  I would say that DoC would retain rights to charge for most of the permanents if they chose to do so.
9.  TCDC does not have a head lease on the land occupied by the wharf and fish factory / shop.  It owns this small piece of land outright.
10.  The fish wholesaler / fish and chips pays full market rent for the site and building as established by independent valuer, in accordance with Council policy.  The lease is a full commercial lease.  The fish and chips were recently instituted (and the lease was revalued accordingly and appropriate consents sought) partly to increase business, but also because the new young owner of the business is very keen to bring some vibrancy back to the area.  He has a long term plan to make some more permanent alterations in this regard, which I believe would be good for the area as a whole to smarten it up.  Incidentally TCDC has in the past called for expressions of interest to do exactly this. 
11. TCDC does not employ the harbourmaster.  TCDC has a contract for wharf management in the area, but this is currently being reviewed.  TCDC will in all likelihood no longer pay for EW wharf management services as there is a preference to do it in house.  I believe the harbourmasters role here is only part time anyway. 
I hope this info is useful.
John Rich
Community Services Manager



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