Te Teko residents were mystified when a rusted metal boat appeared in the town’s main street three months ago.
Was it a statement about rising sea levels? A new playground? Te Teko’s answer to Ohakune’s giant carrot?
Some residents came to see it as an eyesore and a potential danger for children tempted to play on it. They want it shifted.
Residents have approached the Te Teko Residents Association, the Rangitaiki Community Board and Whakatāne District Council for help in having the boat either removed from the town or fenced.
Rangitaiki ward councillor Gavin Dennis said he had been approached by members of the residents’ association.
“I can’t because it’s got nothing to do with council; it’s a privately owned section. It was my understanding that it was meant to have been fenced to keep the kids off it. That’s where it stays, unfortunately, it’s a bit of a blight on the poor Te Teko township.”
Whakatāne District Council community regulation manager Carl Redaelli said a council bylaws compliance officer had assessed the site and found it was compliant with the District Plan and was not causing an environmental health issue.
“Should the situation change and become a breach of any bylaw or district plan it will be dealt with appropriately,” he said.
Te Teko Residents Association secretary Yvonne “Mac” Pryor said before the boat arrived, the community had made an effort to tidy up the empty lot, removing rubbish that had been dumped there and placing planter boxes with attractive plants on the land.
“The next minute a boat was put on there.”
She said local people all wanted it gone.
“We’ve tried all sorts, short of putting it on a trailer and dumping it ourselves.”
Local businesswoman Kelly Pohatu had previously attempted to purchase the land to create a community hub. However, the landowner, Aucklander Nitesh Khajuria, was not interested in selling and she bought another property instead.
She said Khajuria told her he had leased the property to someone who planned to restore the boat.
The site, on the corner of State Highway 30 and Tahuna Rd, was formerly the town’s petrol station, which was burned down in 2001.
Khajuria purchased the site in 2016 for $10,000. He told the Beacon in November that he had offered the owner of the boat use of the land free of charge until the end of the year as he was going through a period of hardship.
Khajuria said his long-term plan for the section was to turn it into a community centre.
“I’ve been in contact with (the boat owner) and have given him permission to manage the property.”
He had been assured that he was working on fencing the property for safety reasons.
“I have sent him several emails regarding this issue. I trust that he will take the necessary steps to address the boat and ensure the property is secure.”
The fencing has never happened.
The Beacon has attempted to contact the boat owner but has been unsuccessful.
By Diane McCarthy, Local Democracy Reporter
LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.