Finding a fix for Ward’s woes
MP’s REPORT The possible closure of longstanding Marlborough company Burkhart Fisheries Ltd because of access problems to the sea will significantly affect the entire Ward community, and the wider Marlborough region.
Access to Ward Beach to launch its crayfish boats ended when the beach was lifted nearly 3 metres by the Kaiko¯ura earthquake.
As a result of this natural event, it is now too dangerous for Burkharts to launch its bigger boats, and often it is treacherous for the smaller boats as well.
I recently visited the Burkharts to discuss this issue and while my position on how access itself should be granted is neutral as it is now before the Environment Court, I do have great concerns for the impact that the loss of this vital business would have on the Flaxbourne community.
At the time of writing, attempts to secure safe access for launching through various means have failed, and all fishing operations have stalled as per the Environment Court’s interim decision before Christmas.
Burkharts say a number of options including East Coast launch sites, smaller or different boats or fishing from another location have all been tried, but none are commercially viable.
The Burkharts’ battle to secure access at Ward Beach has been widely reported in this newspaper, so I will not go into it here again in depth.
My point is that a solution is urgently needed that allows the Burkharts to be able to continue fishing out of the Ward area and processing the catch there.
It is no understatement to say that the Burkhart family provides the economic backbone of the Ward and wider Flaxbourne region.
Burkharts not only own the fishing quota and the processing factory but the Ward motels and cafe. All up they employ more than 30 people in the area, making them Ward’s biggest single employer.
This is clearly an issue that goes far beyond just the welfare of the Burkhart family. In fact, the company principals are close to retirement, so getting launching rights reinstated are not necessary for their future; rather it is essential to a lot of other people.
It is in the interest of all of Marlborough for parties to work to find a broad and workable solution.
There is a real risk that Marlborough loses local ownership of a multi milliondollar industry, and a business which has spent over 40 years providing jobs and export revenue for New Zealand.
The Ward area has had a very difficult few years at the hands of Mother Nature, and its economy has struggled with the closure of State Highway 1.
Losing its largest employer could be one blow too many.
Ward Beach was lifted 3 metres by the Kaiko¯ura earthquake.