Find­ing a fix for Ward’s woes

Marlborough Express - - COMMENT&OPINION - STU­ART SMITH

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.

RICKY WIL­SON/STUFF

Ward Beach was lifted 3 me­tres by the Kaiko¯ura earth­quake.

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