Buller District Councilors Consider Selling Kawatiri Dredger

Buller District mayor Garry Howard has announced that it’s time to front up and openly debate whether or not the district can afford to keep the Kawatiri grab hopper dredger.

At their August 23 meeting, Buller District councilors will formally consider whether or not to sell the dredger which made Westport Harbor viable for large cement ships.

With Holcim now gone, Howard believes selling it is “the only sensible option left” after fruitless years of searching for new bulk trade shipping opportunities.

“The fact is that keeping the dredger is costing Buller ratepayers more than a million dollars a year and that’s neither sustainable nor fair on the wider district,” Howard said.

“It’s been three years since Holcim announced it was pulling out of Westport. In that time we’ve been trying to find new trade for the port and other work for the dredger. But we’ve had only limited success and the reality is there is nothing guaranteed on the horizon.”

Holcim had previously covered the cost of the dredge and running the port. But with Holcim gone the council-owned company Westport Harbor Ltd was facing a loss of over 1 million in the coming year that would be carried by ratepayers, the release said.

Keeping the Kawatiri would cost each Buller District ratepayer at least $140 per year, according to the council’s announcement.

If the dredger was sold, the mayor said that the public should have a say on how the proceeds might be spent. That process could be part of next year’s 10-Year Plan engagement process but would need to be supported by the council, he said.

At the Wednesday’s meeting, the council will also consider a recommendation to wind up the port company – Westport Harbour Ltd – and put its assets and remaining operations into WestReef Ltd, another council-controlled company.