'Innovative' maritime industry beating economic headwinds

More than 10,000 people are expected to visit the Auckland On Water Boat Show this weekend.

More than 10,000 people are expected to visit the Auckland On Water Boat Show this weekend.

Some 200 exhibitors are at the Viaduct Events Centre on the waterfront, with 120 releasing new products or boats.

Such innovation reflects the resilience of the country's maritime industry in New Zealand, says Peter Busfield, executive director of the organiser, Maritime New Zealand.

The marine sector generates annual sales of $1.7 billion, $650 million of which is exported – equivalent to 10% of New Zealand’s manufacturing exports.

“The reason we have kept ahead of the game is we have brought out new products and new features. The innovation has come through. New Zealand has 500,000 boats and fishing is the largest participation sport in New Zealand – bigger than rugby,” he says.

“We are a maritime nation and while these are difficult financial times, our main market is 40 to 70 year olds, who can still afford their boat after paying their mortgage off. They are more of an older age group and it balances the people who may have lost their money in a finance company.” 

Mr Busfield also says that with many exhibitors and attendees coming from the South Island and Australia, it also reflected well on Auckland as a place to visit, adding the boat show was “a demonstration of a vibrant waterfront”.

Many exhibitors NBR ONLINE spoke to yesterday share Mr Busfield’s confidence.

Volpower New Zealand managing director Wayne Patten says business is “bloody fantastic”.

“The number of proper interested people through the doors is really good. We are looking at a lot more refitting of older boats. People’s launches aren’t worth as much so they do not want to bail out. Owners want to refit and get more use out of them.”

ENL Electronic Navigation sales manager Nick Fogarty says he is having “a great show” given the interest in his new multi-function electronic navigation and control tools, which allow a boat to be controlled from an ipad.

“We are just collecting leads but quite a lot of people are interested. I think the show is busier than last year. The market seems to be on the up.” 

Munesh Sharma, finance manager for Auckland-based Integrated Marine Group, says business is picking up in his repair yard.

“I think it’s getting better but it is slow. People are feeling a bit more confident,” he says.

However, Craig McMillan, technical sales staffer at Advanced Trident Ltd, says business remains “patchy” for marine electronics. Recreation sales remain down as people still feel the recession. But the commercial deepwater fishing remains strong.

Brian Leathem, sales manager for Mr Motorcycles in Pukekohe says business is only “average” for his Kawasaki jetskis.

“There’s a lot of inquiries but not much purchasing. But people tend to do research at events like this and buy later.”

The jetski market was picking up and, hopefully, there will be a repeat of last year’s “pretty good summer”, he says.

Outside by the water, Whangarei-based Riverside Boat Worx staff report a good show, saying it is well worthwhile for the repair and refit company.

“Yesterday was unbelievable. I did not expect so many through so early,” manager Maurice Hyde says. “Some people are spending and we have had some solid inquiries.”

Blue Cove Yachts has just arrived in New Zealand, offering US-built vessels ranging from $385,000 to $685,000.

Jed Elderkin, managing director of distributor E Marine Australia, says the yachts have sold well in Australia and the US but has yet to sell one in New Zealand but is optimistic. “We have had many inquiries and a great deal of interest.” 

Riviera Marine New Zealand, which supplies Queensland-made Riviera boats and yachts, reports a "positive feel” for its vessels. Brokerage activity has picked up in recent weeks, with new deliveries including 43ft to 75ft models costing $1.4 million to $7.5 million.

The show, which started on Thursday, runs until Sunday.