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Luxury boat-building plant closure re-ignites plans

Luxury boat-building plant closure re-ignites plans for new marine hub

The now defunct Fitzroy Yachts plant in New Plymouth – identified as the potential heart of a new domestically-focused industrial marine hub for Taranaki.

A huge harbor-side industrial complex which once housed one of New Zealand’s premier luxury yacht-building companies has been placed on the market for sale – re-igniting the potential for the establishment of a large-scale domestic-focused marine industry hub in its place.

Fitzroy Yachts in New Plymouth operated out of a 5890 square metre plant adjacent to the city’s harbor. The company began building super-yachts in 1997 and over the ensuing years, built 11 multi-million-dollar sailing vessels for wealthy foreign owners.

The company’s last yacht – a magnificent 37.5 metre floating palace estimated to be worth more than $30 million – was launched earlier this year, shortly before Fitzroy Yachts ceased trading. Before that, the company built an enormous 50 metre luxury sailing vessel.

However, with no additional yachts or motor boats on the drawing board, the company’s foreign-based owner is placing the plant up for sale. The buildings on site include a 3590 square metre open plan high-stud workshop, a sizeable office complex, and car parking for 190 vehicles. The structures feature concrete foundations and flooring with heavy steel framing and a metal exterior.

The availability of the former Fitzroy Yachts location has re-ignited calls for the establishment of a large-scale domestically-focused commercial and leisure marina in New Plymouth – an opportunity initially highlighted in a 2006 feasability and cost/benefit report undertaken by Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL).

The BERL report said that while Port Taranaki’s existing marina provided basic swing-line moorings, the region’s marine sector service facilities were largely under-developed.

“New Plymouth is the only major coastal town in New Zealand without a serviced marina, and is the only port on the western seaboard where boats do not have to cross a bar to enter,” the report states.

“New Plymouth’s port requires extra berthing facilities for service vessels – particularly as demand increases, and security issues create complications in entering and exiting the main port berths. The marina will provide the regional infrastructure expected of a coastal city, and will encourage community and commercial use – providing a safe haven for yachts and fishing vessels seeking shelter in rough weather.”

Potential onshore facilities identified included for a marina development around the Ocean View Parade precinct include a fuelling jetty, chandlery and car parking. The BERL report calculated that such a marina would generate approximately $7.6million of revenue annually, and would create up to 70 new full-time jobs

The Fitzroy Yachts buildings sit on some 12,000 square metres of land which is currently leased from Port Taranaki through to 2022, with two further rights of renewal which could take the terminating lease out to 2052. The land is 1200 metres from the suburban Moturoa shopping centre, and three kilometres from New Plymouth CBD.

The land and buildings are being marketed for sale by Bayleys Taranaki. Potential buyers are being offered the opportunity to purchase the buildings, plant and equipment on their own for $5.7million, or with Fitzroy Yacht’s intellectual property and yacht plans for an additional $1.3million.

Bayleys Taranaki Salesperson Alan Johnston said the former Fitzroy Yachts location met virtually every criteria identified by the BERL report – with only the simple creation of a slipway needed to complete the jigsaw. He said Port Taranaki had already indicated a willingness to lease additional waterfront land to any new tenant at the Fitzroy Yacht’s premises.

“When the BERL report was released in 2006, a large portion of the local business population indicated that the land and amenities around the Fitzroy Yachts location would have been ideal for the establishment of such a marine hub. However, with Fitzroy Yachts then as the anchor tenant and showing little inclination to relocate, that option was never really pursued further,” Mr Johnston said.

“The size of the main now-vacant Fitzroy Yachts structure- with a stud height of up to 12 metres, supported by the substantial array of ancillary support buildings - means there could easily be the potential of multiple tenants working together under the one roof – such as a fabricator, a diesel mechanic, a cabinet maker and electrical engineer for example.

“All the necessary infrastructure is there for multiple commercial marine support industries to take advantage of, along with an expressed willingness by Port Taranaki to work closely with any future tenants with a view to adding value to the surrounding landholdings by creating this all-encompassing marine services hub for the New Zealand market.”

Mr Johnston’s analysis is supported by the BERL report, which notes: “The boatbuilding industry is in fact an amalgam of a number of industries. It can be likened to building a mansion - but floating – and requires input from a number of industries such as joinery, electrical, electronics, painting, fabrication and mechanical.”

Mr Johnston conceded that the development of such a broad-reaching marina development beside New Plymouth harbor could attract the attention of international investors – most likely out of Asia.

“There is a fleet of squid boats operating along the inner Taranaki coastline, with tuna and deep-sea trawlers operating further out. These vessels currently bypass New Plymouth for their stevedoring and maintenance requirements. This is a lost opportunity for the local economy,” he said.

“Additionally, there is the potential for expansion of the heavy industry marine sector servicing support vessels for the off-shore oil and gas rigs. Again, the building infrastructure of the former Fitzroy Yachts plant would be ideal for this, and the development of a slipway would enable more work to be undertaken in Taranaki rather than vessels and crews sailing off to Onehunga in Auckland or Wanganui.

“Combined, that is a sizeable chunk of work opportunities going begging. The Asians are astute in spotting such international potential opportunities and certainly have the financial clout and man-power to bring together a package which could make the Fitzroy Yachts and surrounding harbourside land work as a marine hub,” he said.

Caption: The now defunct Fitzroy Yachts plant in New Plymouth – identified as the potential heart of a new domestically-focused industrial marine hub for Taranaki.


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