Interview with a Boatie

A popular topic for discussion on the island lately has been about the situation down at Okahaiti Creek, known locally as “The Causeway”.

The tragic death of one man and the severe injury of another recently has led to a lot of people claiming that something needs to be done.

But what is that something?

I had a chat to Bernard Rhodes. A Committee Member of the Waiheke Boating Club, (and Trustee of Waiheke Working Sail), and I asked him some questions about the facilities at the causeway, the live-aboard community, and the changes coming about due to the unitary plan.

Bernard has salt in his veins, has a history with boats going back to when he was 7 years old, and has many stories to tell. Ask him some time.

My conversation with Bernard was, fittingly, on a boat, albeit a Fullers ferry into town, and we talked about the situation at the Causeway, and what he thinks should be done.

Why are the Okahuiti Creek facilities important to Waiheke?

Okahuiti Creek, “The Causeway”, provides the only haul out facility for shallow draft boats on the island.
The bay is sheltered and a safe place to moor small craft.The ‘live-aboards’ are an iconic part of the Waiheke identity, part of the social fabric of the island, and a real community. Not one without it’s problems, but a community nonetheless.

Are the current uses of the causeway polluting?

Michael: I’m often asked how as an environmentalist I can support the polluting activities of the live-aboards, and the boating club, how polluting are the activities there?
Studies in Marinas and grids around Auckland have shown that whilst there is a build up of copper (from anti-foul paint) and other biocides in the area directly underneath a cleaning area, the surrounding areas show negligible build ups. At the Waiheke Boating Club, the facilities we have are for a high pressure water blast.
The bylaws are changing too, requiring that all water blasted at boats from cleaning be collected in a sump, pumped, settled and reused, with the settled material taken to landfill. The boating club will need to make changes to comply with these new laws.

What about the live-aboards? What are the issues there?

The live-aboards are not putting waste into the sea, they either have self contained toilets or use the council ones. Or both. There’s no issue of human waste getting into the bay.

Their boats may not be in the best condition, many choose to live on boats due to limited options for housing on land, and many struggle with the upkeep of their boats, and they may become visually unappealing to some people, but in many cases, it’s nothing a good water blast couldn’t fix.

The two big issues affecting the live-aboard community are the anti-social behaviour of no more than three of the residents, and the issue of rubbish collection.

There is no scheduled rubbish collection to this area, and as such, the two council provided bins at the bus stop are almost always overflowing, which is unsightly. Council is soon to remove these bins.

The other aspect of this is the inorganic collection, only once every two years. The live-aboard community are very resourceful, and are often able to extend the life of items they use for many years, but still the issue of rubbish building up over time diminishes the utility and appearance of the area

Michael: What about the feeling that many people might resent the live-aboard community for getting that toilet ‘for free’ and question why we should provide rubbish collection for people who don’t pay for the service?
That’s most certainly a concern, but I’m of the view that most of the live-aboard community would happily pay a mooring fee of say $100 per annum, which is about standard for that sort of mooring, in exchange for security of tenure and rubbish collection.

What needs to change down there?

Some physical changes need to be made to the area so that the boating club can comply with the new bylaws coming into place in the new year.

The Waiheke Boating Club doesn’t have a lease with council over the area, which is distressing, and has has been trying to get one for 20+ years!

A seawall is also needed, to help support the stability of the causeway, and a boardwalk on the edge would re-engage the wider community with their bay.

Paul Walden has met with the Boating Club on this issue and wants Auckland Council to build this wall, but Council’s willingness to spend any money at the moment is compromised

What else needs to change?

Bernard tells me that the proposed mooring zoning changes for the bay make no sense and would be much much worse than what is current.


Anybody familiar with the causeway knows that only the middle part of the bay has water in it all the time, and that at low tide the other bits are mud. The section in the above map down the middle represents the only navigable channel at all times.

proposed mooring zone

Bernard scribbles for me on a hand drawn map of the bay, what the mooring zone looks like under the Unitary Plan. The area in red.
With boats moored here, no one can get in or out of the haul-out area, or move at any time other than high tide.
As well as that, any moorings outside of this envelope would require resource consent, which he described as ‘death by a thousand cuts’ to the people moored there currently, especially considering some of those moorings have been present for over 35 years. 
Bernard has an alternative suggestion which he tells me was submission number “6 thousand 1 hundred and something” to the Unitary Plan.

bernards suggestion

In Bernard’s proposed arrangement, the channel would remain clear, moorings allowed outside of the channel on either side, and access to the haul-out being available at all times.

Bernard also proposes a 10metre clear area on the beach near the playground, (marked in purple) to keep the beach free to walk along, free of dangerous Waratahs and anchors, and would require the live-aboards who currently run gangplanks to that area to remove them from the playground.

Bernard also proposes that there be appointed a local moorings officer. One who reports to the Harbour Master, but who manages moorings locally. 
I find myself very convinced by the practical and well thought out proposals of this knowledgeable man. At this our conversation comes to an end as we arrive at Pier 2 in Auckland and Bernard is off to a function on a boat. Of course.
It’s chats with great Waiheke islanders like Bernard that remind and encourage me about the resilience, expertise and experience of the people of Waiheke to rise to the challenges we face.

One comment

  • Thank you for giving time to a voice of reason in what appears to be an ugly and selfish debate aimed at dislocating some of the more vulnerable in our community for the sake of property values.

    Am I reading that correctly people? Be honest. Bernard’s vision for The Causeway seems to be a sound one (someone who actually has some knowledge of the sea) considering the real issues of boat repair, keeping the channel viable, keeping the bay a functioning space for the community and considering the lives of those involved and the impact of ‘gentrification’ on the dispossessed. Waiheke is in danger of homogenising itself and turning into a sterile Herne Bay.

    Don’t lose the character. Boats and people are a quintessential part of this seascape. Is it really bothering people so much that someone might have a free toilet? Shame on you if you can’t afford your fellow human a free crap.

    I thought New Zealanders cared about people. From the sounds of some of the narrow-minded, miserly arguments about money, generousity or lack and resentment thereof and ‘The Causeway’, that I have been hearing – I must have been mistaken.

    What happened to live and let live? How hard do you want people’s lives to become? I consider my rates are about funding community not just about rubbish removal – and community is diversity. Remember? Debates about ‘boat people’ are raging under the conservative governments worldwide and especially in neighbouring Australia.

    I see New Zealand is also labouring under the same sudden onset of lack of generousity and compassion with this Causeway boat people panic.

    I hope people like Bernard can play a key role in getting a considered outcome. And for gods sake why hasn’t the council given the boat club a lease in all this time? What’s the agenda? The world belongs to ALL.

    Liked by 1 person

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