Temporary berths for race

Opportunities to get close to the large ocean yachts expected to take part in next year's Auckland to Bluff ocean yacht race while they are moored at Bluff will be limited.

Bluff has no permanent berths for recreational vessels.

A2B event co-owner Murray Francis told a crowd of about 60 people at a meeting in Bluff last night the large inflatable mooring pontoons first suggested were not feasible because they would be ''wrecked'' by Bluff's strong tidal currents.

Instead, large rubber ''fenders'' would be used to moor four or five yachts at a time at an ''arrivals wharf'' - the main public wharf where the Stewart Island ferry berths.

After a time, those yachts would be moved to a temporary mooring chain at the secure Southport commercial port to make way for new arrivals, he said. Only crew would be able to access those yachts.

Longtime Bluff fishermen's radio operator Meri Leask said facilities were so lacking at Bluff the owners of a $29 million yacht had to use ''three wooden pallets as a ladder'' to get on and off the wharf because no proper ladder was available.

Resident Paul Pasco said he would like to see berthing facilities upgraded permanently.

Mr Francis said he hoped the ''leverage and legacy'' of the race would be that better facilities would be developed in time.

Nine yachts were confirmed already for next year's race, he said, five from Australia and four from New Zealand. Invitations were going out to yachties all over the world.

A five-day marine-themed festival was planned for Bluff from February 16, race project manager Craig Seuseu Seuseu said. Schools would be encouraged to adopt a boat and prizegiving ceremonies could be held at the local Te Rau Aroha Marae. A resident who identified herself as Cherie said she wanted race organisers to involve Bluff residents to ensure they were part of the festival, not ''done to''.

Mr Seuseu said there would be economic opportunities for residents, including food stalls and merchandising.

A second public meeting will be held today in Invercargill's Civic Theatre Drawing Room at 5.30pm.

allison.rudd@alliedpress.co.nz

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