Built by NZ Marine member Tangaroa Marine Fabrication in Whangarei, Facilitator 7 is an 11.5m long high-speed landing craft. Powered by twin 200hp outboards, it carries equipment and vehicles between mainland Auckland and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. It is one of three barges and a high-speed workboat owned and operated by Tim Hofmeister of Facilitator Limited, one of the early adopters of Auckland Council’s Pest Free Warrant program.
“It’s such a great thing to have all these islands pest-free,” says Tim, who joined the Pest Free Warrant program ahead of it being compulsory.
He says Auckland Council and Department of Conservation teams provided excellent advice and support to help him learn what is required, and that biosecurity practice was easily integrated within his business processes. With the procedures are now embedded in his business and checking and cleaning – whether equipment, vessels, footware or food, now comes naturally – he and the crew don’t need to think about it.
“What DOC and Auckland council are doing is excellent – it’s not a them-or-us situation, they are working alongside us to help us ensure we are not accidentally carrying pests to the islands,” “he says. “If I was to find something, there is no reason I would hide it.”
Despite all the measures, Tim says that over the years they have had some close calls with ants, skinks and even rats where he has spotted something suspicious and collected specimens and sent them for testing. In one notable episode the detector dog Rosie started howling at a vehicle even before she got close to it. Obviously, the vehicle was stopped from boarding.
He says that he also wants recreational boat owners to be aware there is a real chance they could carry pests to the islands. For example, when squid bait is left on board or sits in the bilge and then the boat is parked in a driveway at home, it’s likely to attract pests to it that could easily be carried ashore at its next trip in the Gulf.
Pests like rats, mice and skinks live above the waterline but marine pests can be transported on the underwater surfaces of boats. These include Mediterranean fanworm, which is well established in his home port Westhaven Marina but not in the outer Hauraki Gulf. To stop it hitchhiking onboard, Facilitator Ltd vessels are berthed at in floating docks. As an an added benefit that because the vessels don’t accumulate biofouling, the boats perform at their best, which saves money on fuel and maintenance
Commercial vessels must obtain a Pest-Free Warrant by 2024 to continue operating in the Hauraki Gulf.
Warrants are designed to reduce the risk of pest invasion and spread to the Hauraki Gulf Islands. They are required under the Auckland Regional Pest Management Plan 2020-2030 (RPMP) and are free. Help is available from Auckland Council to complete the process.