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Regatta reminder regarding boat launching at Sullivans

by 2 Jan 2009Regatta 20090 comments

Launching of small boats participating in regatta 9–11 am
Retrieval 3.30–4.30 pm

Trailer Job: While boats can be ‘hand launched’ at Sullivans Bay whenever the park is open, larger craft such as the Mahurangi punt Penelope need to be trailer-launched.

Shortly after the 2009 regatta format was published, park ranger Matthew Williams e-mailed asking that the small boat launching times at Sullivans Bay be included.

The editor is always inordinately grateful for such feedback—it is altogether too easy to miss the bleedin’ obvious.

What is clearly not obvious, to many people familiar with Mahurangi West, is why boats cannot be launched at all times at Sullivans, in the Mahurangi Regional Park.

The question was raised recently in connection with the Rodney District Council’s efforts to address congestion at Ōpahi. This was initially in response to frustration voiced to the council when a vehicle was parked in such a way that part of the dinghy rack could not be accessed.

Over a year has passed with much deliberation, and angst—a proposed layout has been drawn up that includes the removal of a number of indigenous trees planted by Professor Sir Graham Liggins and neighbours, when the road head looked much less-loved than it does today.

Of course there would be no argument about whether one or two trees should be sacrificed to create one or two extra parking spaces, if space had been reserved when the bay was subdivided, in 1962.

But with the subdivision of Jamieson Bay, Ōpahi, the Bullock Track and various ‘bush lot’ subdivisions since, Rodney District Council has failed to provide for boat trailer parking. But rather than be pressured to address this unarguable need, locals invariably look down-harbour: ‘They should allow launching at Sullivans!’

This is not entirely selfishly motivated; the bays other than at Sullivans are shoal. A boat ramp at Sullivans Bay would provide all-tide launching without vehicles needing to drive out across the beach, as at Jamieson Bay and Ōpahi.

But park policy very firmly excludes trailer boat launching at Sullivans, other than on regatta day, and for some very sound reasons:

  • It is highly valued as a tranquil picnic beach
  • It is exposed to easterly weather
  • Boat trailer traffic would compromised the pleasure afforded by the scenic ridge road.

There is no doubt that was a launching ramp built at Sullivans Bay, an enormous amount of boat launching traffic would be generated—it would be the closest launching point to the end of the motorway, after all.

The regional council is almost certain to resist all efforts by locals or the district council to have Sullivans given over to boat launching because it would not be the best of the bay, but there is another equally valid reason to uphold the present policy: there are better options elsewhere at Mahurangi West.

There is a silver bullet solution, but even as silver bullets go, this could be costly on the public purse, particularly if it were imposed under the public works act. The location was first suggested to the council as part of the Rodney District Plan 2000 process, but was raised independently at the last Ōpahi meeting. It involves making the private road to the Huawai Bay oyster depot public, acquiring land for parking and re-dredging the channel, which was created by Rupert Berger in the early 1970s.

Now all this would be all too expensive for Rodney District Council if it were imposed upon the current property holders. But the scheme would have the potential for retiring some steep erodible land from grazing by beef cattle, in favour of restoration the indigenous forest. The cost could be absorbed by the sale of some residential sites, carefully designed and controlled so as to reduce visual impact on the harbourscape.

But even with this silver bullet solution, the district council should be planning long-term to acquire land at Jamieson Bay, Ōpahi, the Bullock Track and in the Pukapuka inlet, to improve access to the harbour. The perfect property at Ōpahi is currently for sale. Let as holiday accommodation for the next couple of decades—by which time it would be beyond its design life—the acquisition would almost pay for itself.

At Jamieson Bay, properties are being marketed on a regular basis. Long-term, it shouldn’t be impossibly challenging to ultimately add the circa 1864 Jamieson homestead site to the esplanade reserve, which was diminished in width to accommodate Govan Jamieson’s building, extant when the bay was subdivided, but for not long after.

In the Pukapuka, the public is denied access to a strategic esplanade reserve—close alongside the main channel, navigable on most states of the tide—for the want of the purchase of a scrap of land, which a kid could jump across.

So if you are a small boat owner launching at Sullivans Bay on regatta day, rather than berate the ranger, or park policy, you may consider contacting Rodney District Council to encourage it to do some long-term planning.

Sullivans is sublime, and inviolate in respect to launching ramps.

And as for Ōpahi: It’s not perfect, but it’s fine, for now.

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