Vessel restorers looking elsewhere for funding

Elsie Evans moored at Latham Bay, Portobello. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Elsie Evans moored at Latham Bay, Portobello. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
The trust restoring Elsie Evans is looking at alternative funding sources after finding themselves in a ''chicken and the egg'' situation.

Otago Harbour Ferry Inc (OHFI) chairman Shem Sutherland said the restoration was almost complete.

All that was left to do was have the vessel surveyed and certified, which was expected to cost about $15,000.

Elsie Evans could then be leased out to a business to conduct harbour cruises.

However, Mr Sutherland said the problem was funders would not commit their money to the survey until a lessee was found, and any potential lessees would not lease Elsie Evans until the survey was completed.

''It's a bit like the chicken and the egg - which comes first?''

He said there had been a couple of ''nibbles'' from parties interested in leasing the vessel, but none would commit without a completed survey.

''There's fewer pots of money out there and more people trying to get the money out of them. So we've just got to work a bit harder to get the money.''

He said the OHFI committee was looking at things like crowd funding and a Friends of Elsie Evans funding network.

He said the venture was close to coming to fruition, and it was hoped new funding could help get the vessel operating commercially on the harbour by October.

Mr Sutherland was confident the money could be raised and the boat could be leased.

''Every time we take the boat out and we have some people on board, we get feedback.

''We definitely know we've got the right vessel to run an operation.

''People might be saying that a port-to-port operation is already going, but that's actually going to increase the number of people wanting to go out on to the harbour.''

He believed tourist numbers going to Portobello had not yet reached their peak because work on roading projects and cycle lanes was still to be completed.

''We haven't missed the ball.''

Nearly $500,000 has been spent on restoring the 12.9m vessel, which is the only one of its kind left in New Zealand.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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