In a remarkable and sensitive piece of reporting our very own Ellie Brade—who as editor of SuperyachtIntelligence and almighty compiler of our industry-beating Global Order Book, has been living in Auckland for the past three years—addresses as has never been done before what happens when a yacht yard stops building.
But this isn’t a story about a single yard falling on hard times. The Kiwi government has a direct hand in what’s happening to New Zealand’s premier yacht builders by their insistence on maintaining a high foreign exchange rate for the Kiwi dollar. In the course of my reporting on this industry over the past four years, I have encountered owners, brokers and managers who’ve extolled the virtues of Kiwi yacht building prowess. But the compliment has always been mitigated by the condition of the relative value of the New Zealand currency.
Many superyacht clients arrived at their position of tremendous wealth on the strength of an excellent sense of how to exploit the price-value relationship. What New Zealand offered until recently was competitive pricing with the highest calibre of workmanship—certainly on par with the Dutch, given the placement of projects from serial owners and designers that seem to tick off Royal Huisman and Vitters as often as they do Alloy or Fitzroy for instance. But when you’re a passionate yachtsman with a project in-build, the flight halfway around the world to attend to the project is only as sweet as the deal you got for it. With yards in northern Europe able to deliver the same level of quality, New Zealand has to compete on price.
The yacht builders know what the problem is, and they’ve taken it to the government in Auckland. The Marine Industry Association, ahead of the Fitzroy closing, took the fight to the Prime Minister’s office, asking for a lowering of both interest and exchange rates to help give the yards a chance at competing for the global orders that keep these yards working.
Meanwhile, Fitzroy’s workers, in a move all the more impressive for its creativity and pragmatism—precisely the qualities you’d expect from some of the best craftsmen in the world—pooled their thinking and developed a web site to sell themselves.
These are some of the best boat builders in the world, and somehow they’re losing their jobs. In all honesty, it’s a disgrace.
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