As could be expected, the New Zealand Herald has given extensive coverage to the latest boat fire on the Causeway.
Community living on edge
The deadly fire has left the Waiheke Island community living on edge.
‘Countess’ was the second of Mr Walker's boats to be gutted by fire in the past four months, after ‘Lafayette’ was razed in June.
The ‘Lafayette’ fire was found not suspicious by police but Mr Beard said the incident would be looked at and "taken into consideration in regard to the current investigation".
Monday night's blaze occurred about 9.30pm - beside the charred remains of Mr Walker's previous boat on the mudflats at Ostend, among a string of mostly rundown and semi-abandoned houseboats.
Another boat owner, who didn't want to be named, said there had been a series of misdemeanours, vandalism and retaliation in the "live-aboard" community in recent years.
He cited reports of stolen equipment and threats between the wilder elements of the bay's boat community. Heavy drinking, swearing and fighting were common in the area, the man said. Just weeks before the fire that destroyed Lafayette in June, another man had attacked the Lafayette with an axe, smashing windows and hacking at the deck, the neighbour said.
"There have been about five or six boats that have been burned in the last five or six years," the man said.
"Craka's first boat was attacked by an axe-wielding person. There's a lot of things that have been going on."
Another local resident, who was too afraid to be identified in case of foul play, said locals were on edge yesterday because of recent aggression among some boaties.
"You see and hear a lot around that area with the boaties and I know the boaties have a bit of conflict with each other at times.
Ostend Domain on the Causeway is a Council Reserve managed by the Parks Department above mean high water mark (AMHWM), with below mean high water mark (BMHWM) Putiki Bay managed by the Harbourmaster. Following attempts by previous community boards, the first Waiheke Local Board (2010-2013) made good progress towards a resolution of the situation by requesting the Harbourmaster to enforce their own regulations in the management of the mooring areas BMHWM. In contrast, despite numerous appeals, Council’s Parks Dept has consistently failed to adequately apply Council’s own regulations AMHWM.
Over the years, some brave individuals have put their heads above the parapet and highlighted the situation, only to be accused of being NIMBYS and ‘uncaring’ by the usual rent-a-mob who romantically perceive the situation to be ‘iconic’ and an example of the ‘Waiheke way’. Aided and abetted by the Gulf News, these self-appointed do-gooders obstructed any historic Board attempts to address the situation by labelling their actions as attempts to ‘sanitise’ the community.
The hands-off, ‘softly, softly’ approach taken by Parks Management over a number of years has achieved nothing and continually taken the situation backwards thereby obstructing any resolution of the very real problems faced by those living in inadequate conditions. The health and safety aspects of drug abuse, alcohol abuse and mental health issues have been laid bare through multiple incidents and demanded immediate Council response. It hasn’t happened.
Some people are calling for an independent inquiry before another tragedy results. What also needs to happen is an internal audit of the actions of Council’s Parks Department and the way they have failed to manage this public reserve and protect the environment and, of course, failed to address the health and safety of illegal ‘liveaboards’. By their inaction, they have become ‘enablers’, permitting people to live in squalor and perpetuating a situation that is manifestly out of control.