Boating NZ : FREE TO READ March 2014
perfect to the plans. “I’d get phone calls from overseas IOR measurers complimenting us on how accurate our boats were to the plans. And that accuracy gave us the reputation for top level race boats.” From 1985, the bulk of Franklin’s customers were based overseas, and with the New Zealand dollar well down against other currencies, and export incentives, Franklin’s order book was booked solid for months ahead. America and Japan were major markets for Franklin, and when he attended a Japanese regatta during the mid-1990s, he found he’d built 15 boats of the 28 competing. While Franklin had a successful and profitable business with around 30 staff, cash flow was based around progress payments often months apart. To improve cash flow, in 1992 he set up a travel lift and maintenance facility at Waikawa Bay in the Marlborough Sounds, as there were no facilities to haul out keelers and launches. By now Franklin was operating from premises at Ferrymead complex on the edge of the Christchurch Estuary. Initially Franklin used one building, but as his business picked up he took over more buildings until he was using them all. Franklin remained in this complex until 2005, when his lease wasn’t renewed, forcing him to relocate to Bromley. “In hindsight I should have packed it in and moved to Waikawa, because it was a huge expense to move that was subsequently wasted.” Franklin is referring to the twin hammer blows of the GFC and the Christchurch earthquakes. The GFC slowed Franklin’s business as overseas clients stopped commissioning new boats. Franklin kept his staff busy with half a dozen, Bruce Askew-designed Franklin 925 launches, but these had a limited market. There were a few one- off commissions such as the Davidson- designed Pendragon VI and the S&S-designed yawl, Theodora, which featured in Boating New Zealand but orders basically dried up, not helped by the high New Zealand dollar. “The [high] New Zealand dollar has just crippled our industry, and not just us. Look at the furniture guys.” The Christchurch earthquakes hit the Bromley area hard and Franklin was forced to spend his time cleaning up after each quake. “It all came to a grinding halt. I tried to keep the staff on and things happening, but it all got too hard.” In 2011 he made the difficult decision to wind up Franklin Boats and, with some staff, relocate to Waikawa. Sadly this move didn’t go to plan. Franklin had been leasing his 3,000m2 yard from Port Marlborough NZ Ltd (PMNZ) for 20 years, as well as paying them a fee for each travel lift. In 2011 PMNZ refused to renew Franklin’s lease and requested him to remove all sheds, fences and facilities. PMNZ then set up its own travel-lift operation. This was a major blow, however Franklin was eventually able to take over Fin Jorgensen’s old boatbuilding complex in Waikawa Bay. This yard didn’t have room for a travel lift, but it did have three slipways. However the Marlborough District Council opposed Franklin’s resource consent to operate from this site, even though it had been a boatyard for well over 60 years. The council claimed the authority to operate a boatyard from what’s essentially a residential zoning expired before Franklin had started work. Through the Environment Court, Franklin was able to prove otherwise and the council ruling was overturned. It was a big relief for Franklin, giving him the confidence to expand the refit and maintenance facilities on the old boatyard site. For Franklin, the last two years have been hard and left him feeling a trifle bruised, but he’s now back on his feet and focused on re-building his refit and maintenance business. While it’s sad seeing such a successful boatbuilding operation disappear, Franklin has left his mark on the rich tapestry of New Zealand boatbuilding. Inner Circle Picnic, a 10m picnic launch designed by Bruce Askew. Ian Franklin has plans to upgrade Fin Jorgensen’s old boatbuilding yard at Waikawa Bay. subscribe online at www.mags4gifts.co.nz/boating-nz 97 Retros&ClassicsMarch14.indd 97 18/02/2014 4:58:59 p.m.
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