The Marlborough District Council wants to hand over ownership of two electric cranes on jetties at d’Urville Island and French Pass — in a bid to avoid any health and safety liability.
The two electric-powered cranes on Kapowai and Elmsie Bay jetties were inherited by the council when the Marlborough Harbour Board was disestablished in the late 1980s.
At the time, the council inherited a number of jetties that were not seen as commercially viable by Port Marlborough, according to a report prepared by Marlborough Roads chairperson Steve Murrin.
Murrin told the council’s assets and services meeting last week that locals used the jetties for loading and unloading boats.
The cranes needed an annual certification, but a routine inspection from an engineering company at the end of 2023 found both cranes needed “major refurbishment” to receive ongoing certification.
“Those cranes are getting towards the end of their life,” Murrin said.
“We have money within the jetty’s budget to do that.”
The cost to refurbish the cranes was estimated at about $85,000.
The council sought legal advice after a health and safety report highlighted the use of cranes about five years ago.
The advice said, under the Health and Safety at Work Act, the council had a primary duty of care to ensure the safety of people was not put at risk by the use of the cranes.
Keys to the cranes
The decision was made to make the cranes operable only through the use of a key.
A French Pass resident was left in charge of handing out the keys, but only to those familiar with operating the cranes.
The report said the resident in charge of the keys died about two years ago.
A record of issued keys, which was kept in a book, had not been located.
“Conversations with locals that frequently use the cranes indicate that it is only residents in the area who are familiar with operating the cranes who have keys,” the report said.
The main use for the cranes was for commercial fishermen to unload their catch. Residents also unloaded and loaded fuel onto their boats.
A beekeeper with hives on d’Urville Island said he loaded and unloaded around 12 tonnes of honey annually.
Murrin put forward options for the assets and services committee to consider.
This included removing the cranes entirely. However, his recommendation was to transfer the ownership to the d’Urville Island Settlers Association once they confirmed they were competent and capable to look after the cranes.
They could apply for a special grant from the council if the cranes needed maintenance.
‘An essential connection’
Marlborough Sounds ward councillor Barbara Faulls, who could not vote on the proposal until it went to full council, said the jetties and cranes were vital to residents.
“They recently lost their fuel supply at French Pass, which means that they’re having to lug large containers of fuel on and off of their boats, onto the island, and then drive to wherever they’re going,” Faulls said.
“I hear what Steve [Murrin] is saying about the health and safety, and this is just what it is [in] this day and age in terms of liability and so on, they have obviously been doing it for years.
“But it is an essential connection for them onto that island… but it’s not just them, it is also Marlborough Roads staff, is my understanding, but also Department of Conservation staff who utilise those cranes.”
Marlborough Mayor Nadine Taylor said the council was privileged to look after island communities like d’Urville.
“This is not a shift in responsibility in the wider sense of the infrastructure, we will be standing by those communities to make sure it’s there for them.”
The committee voted in favour of gifting the cranes. This was subject to full council approval on February 26.
By Maia Hart, Local Democracy Reporter
Local Democracy Reporting is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air