Council refuses further $25,000 for 'Elsie Evans'

The final push to get the former harbour ferry Elsie Evans back in the water got stuck in the mud yesterday, when councillors baulked at the idea of granting another $25,000 for the project.

That concern was increased by Otago Harbour Ferry Inc not having taken up an offer of help from the council economic development team to put together a business plan.

Organisers plan to restore the former Otago Harbour ferry as a working launch carrying sightseers around the harbour and making ferry trips.

Originally built in 1901 for the Timaru Harbour Board to transfer pilots to incoming vessels, the 13m-long launch ended its days as a ferry in 1954, and spent 17 years lying under a macrocarpa hedge at Waihola before being saved. It became clear earlier this year the organisation was struggling to get the final $55,000 it needed to finish the job, after raising nearly $380,000.

While volunteers had attracted almost $50,000 from the Dunedin City Council, the council was not keen to provide more help until the vessel was in the harbour.

Otago Harbour Ferry Inc was set up in 2004.

Since the project began, the council has contributed a service grant of $20,000, a suspensory loan of $20,000, and community grant scheme funding of $7500.

The organisation asked the council annual plan hearings committee for a grant of $25,000, and for the council to release $10,000 from last year that had been withheld.

Cr Lee Vandervis went in to bat for the project, which he said was necessary to complete the loop created by the cycle route around the harbour, allowing cyclists to return to their starting point by water.

"This $25,000 is going to be some of the better value we get from grants."

But Cr Kate Wilson was concerned she had not seen a business plan for the vessel once it was in the water.

Cr Chris Staynes agreed, and said the $10,000 had been withheld because of a lack of a business case.

He said there was also no guarantee the money would get the boat in the water.

One of the assets of the organisation was an engine it had bought for the vessel, which turned out to be too big, and too heavy to use.

The sale of the engine had been attempted, but had not been successful.

Councillors agreed to grant the project $12,000, as long as the organisers worked with the economic development team to put together a business case.

- david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

 

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