After listening to submissions from houseboat owners at Putiki Bay and Rangihoua, the first Waiheke Local Board (2010-2013) initiated a dialogue with Auckland Council to try and get them special status under the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP).
Council’s initial consideration was to make all ‘houseboats’ and moored yachts used as an abode illegal, right across the region. Most Waiheke houseboat owners told us they were willing to pay some kind of rates and thus contribute to Council costs, as do we ordinary ratepayers. On that basis, then Chairperson Faye Storer and I went to the Governing Body councillors reviewing the Coastal Management part of the PAUP and argued for special provision to recognise the status of ‘houseboats’ in these two locations.
In September 2013, as the 2010-2013 Local Board finished its term, the amended PAUP made a concession under Part 3, Chapter I to treat the Putiki Bay and Rangihoua houseboats as a Restricted Discretionary (RD) activity under the plan. This means that, like other home owners, they will need to apply for a Resource Consent and, in exchange for paying rates, they will be permitted to stay under strict conditions. Numbers would be limited to four, including the two more conventional, existing houseboats, at Putiki Bay and to six at Rangihoua (which has been the informal traditional situation). The illegally moored abodes would remain illegal under the PAUP as they must be under the Resource Management Act (RMA) and current Council bylaws.
Fears have been expressed that this proposal is tantamount to a ‘right’ for all squatters to occupy the Causeway and all our wetlands. Not at all. It recognises the historical situation and the bone fide houseboat activity and restricts it to controllable numbers. Like all rights, it would bring its own responsibilities – resource consents and rates payments and adherence to Council by-laws like any other ratepayer. Rather than the current situation, where Council Parks management has allowed Ostend Domain to become the privatised front yard of illegally moored, un-seaworthy ‘vessels’ to the detriment of quality public usage, some balance would be restored.
Meantime, it would be encouraging to see some action from Council Parks without having to wait for the coroner’s report into the unfortunate death on board a boat moored illegally on Council land. Something must be done to avoid another fatal accident.