Queenstown council fires back at millionaire Aucklander over yacht row

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Ex-America's Cup yacht NZL14, which has been declared abandoned by the Queenstown-Lakes District Council

Supplied/Stuff

Ex-America’s Cup yacht NZL14, which has been declared abandoned by the Queenstown-Lakes District Council

An Auckland businessman was sent “numerous directives” to deal with an “abandoned” ex-America’s Cup yacht, the Queenstown-Lakes District Council says.

The council is seeking interest from buyers for ex-America’s Cup trial yacht NZL-14, which is moored in Queenstown Bay.

It is doing so because it considers the boat abandoned, under Marine Transport Act legislation.

The boat was owned by the NZL14 Youth Aid Foundation Queenstown, of which Auckland property developer Geoff Hunt is the protector. The foundation owes $600,000 to Hunt on the boat.

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The council said on Thursday the boat broke from its moorings on the lake in September 2018 and the council “persistently” sought for Hunt to take responsibility.

It then found a private mooring to tie the boat to and began paying the owner a fee to hold it there. It would not disclose the cost.

The council then sought reimbursement from Hunt, a spokesperson said, before issuing “numerous directives” to Hunt and demands for payment.

“Mr Hunt showed no commitment to comply with the directives or meet the demands.”

It then obtained a court order that the boat was abandoned, allowing it to sell it.

Council regulatory manager Anthony Hall said the authority was now looking for someone “more suited” to owning the vessel.

Geoff Hunt in 2011 with a sloop that belonged to Brian Johnstone, father of drug trafficker Marty Johnstone

Stuff

Geoff Hunt in 2011 with a sloop that belonged to Brian Johnstone, father of drug trafficker Marty Johnstone

“We want to ensure whoever is looking to take on this boat will bring it up to a safe standard. We want to find someone who is not going to create another potential problem for the community.”

Hunt said he might move the boat to the private Queenstown Marina, but the council said it can still sell the boat, even if it is moved.

Hunt told Stuff on Wednesday he never received a formal invoice for the costs.

When asked about the council’s comments on Thursday, Hunt said he did receive directives. However, they were addressed to him personally instead of the foundation, which owns the boat.

While he admits that he established the foundation he said it was “legally quite different”.

He was still challenging the court ruling that the boat was abandoned, he said, but said if the council addressed the foundation instead of him he would comply with its demands.

The yacht, which has a 35-metre carbon fibre mast, was used by a Russell Coutts-led Team New Zealand as a trial yacht in the 1992 America’s Cup challenge.

After being used by Team New Zealand the boat was used in 1998 for training by the Hong Kong America’s Cup team. In 2003, it was raced in the Moët Cup in San Francisco.

It was bought in 2005 by a Queenstown tourism company for excursions on Lake Wakatipu.



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