- Media release
06 Jul 2023
The Ulva Island Te Wharawhara wharf replacement is in doubt after increasing uncertainty about initial agreements with the Department of Conservation.
The Stewart Island/Rakiura Community Board and Southland District Council have been informed about the issues and Council will decide on the project’s future in September. Key stakeholders, such as the tour operators and the island jetties committee, are being informed of the issues today.
The present wharf in Post Office Cove is at the end of its functional life, so must either be replaced or removed. It attaches to road reserve on the island and then to a DOC track, which crosses private land. To cross the private land DOC has an agreement with the owners, the Hunter family.
After some discussions, Council believed it was unlikely that agreement could be reached on a new accessible structure in Post Office Cove so alternative locations were sought. The site chosen was at Bathing Bay. Agreement in principle and letters of support were obtained from both DOC and the Hunter family advising they were comfortable with the Bathing Bay site before any assessment was undertaken.
To link the new wharf in Bathing Bay to the existing DOC track network a new track of about 350m to 400m would need to be built. DOC was always clear there were no funds for the physical build of the track, but had agreed in principle last year to own and maintain it, and provide in-kind contribution through design and construction services.
However, after recent discussions, there is now doubt whether DOC will take responsibility for the ongoing ownership of the track asset and its maintenance. It is also unclear what the department’s position is now on the resource consent process for construction of the wharf in Bathing Bay.
There are increasing cost estimates for the construction of the wharf and with the uncertainties around both the resource consent and the track, a decision will soon have to be made on the whole project. Staff will bring a final assessment of the feasibility of proceeding with the project to Council in September. The assessment will cover not only the proposed wharf at Bathing Bay, but also what happens to the present wharf.
Stewart Island/Rakiura ward councillor Jon Spraggon is disappointed and frustrated by the impasse.
“Staff and elected members have put a lot of work into this project, which has been going on for more than three years. We have tried to be collaborative all the way and it just feels that there are continual barriers being put up,” Mr Spraggon said.
Stewart Island/Rakiura Community Board chair Aaron Conner said a large number of visitors who come to Rakiura want to go to Ulva Island.
“We know Ulva is one of our key attractions and we have worked hard to try to get a suitable wharf for the island, its visitors and our operators. We want to ensure the right thing is done, but this seems all too hard.
“We can’t incur an ongoing cost to the island community for maintenance of a track which also has a significant benefit for DOC and meets one of its aims, which is to connect people with nature,” Mr Conner said.
“We have applied to the Stewart Island/Rakiura visitors’ levy fund, to the Tourism Infrastructure Fund – hell, one board member even offered to run a fundraising drive. It seems just as we think we are moving ahead, we come to a big stop again,” he said.