Stoush continues as infamous America's Cup boat hauled from Queenstown Bay

by Lauren Pattemore - Jan 25, 2024

The infamous America's Cup boat NZL 14 has been removed from Lake Wakatipu's waters by council after years of legal battles regarding its right to be parked in Queenstown Bay.

Auckland man Geoff Hunt, who bought the boat five years ago, contacted Crux this week disappointed to say he was in the dark on the boat's whereabouts.

He says his communication to the local council on it has gone unanswered. 

Auckland millionaire and boat fixer-upper Geoff Hunt was surprised and disappointed to hear the boat is gone.

The boat's removal is the outcome of legal proceedings, a spokesperson from the Queenstown Lakes District Council has this week confirmed to Crux.

After the yacht was deemed abandoned in court, it was "subsequently disposed of under Section 33L of the Maritime Transport Act 1994", the spokesperson says.

"Council is pleased to have NZL14 removed from Lake Wakatipu, which removes the risk of NZL14 sinking, which would have added further complications to this matter and possible environmental degradation."

The yacht was removed from the lake at the start of November, and as yet the council cannot disclose the cost to ratepayers.

It's been a long legal battle between Mr Hunt and the council, beginning in 2020 when the council had the boat declared "abandoned" in the district court. 

Under Section 33L, a regional council has permission to remove, sell or store abandoned boats left in its region's waters. Despite losing the district court case, and a subsequent high court appeal in 2023, Mr Hunt still maintains his boat was never abandoned, saying such in his interview with Crux this week. 

Mr Hunt's barrister noticed the boat no longer in Queenstown Bay a few weeks ago, and enquiries to the council by Mr Hunt as to its whereabouts have not been responded to.

Mr Hunt says he was of the understanding that following the legal proceedings he was removing the boat from the bay.

In the past few months he has been negotiating a deal with a Singapore Software company, which would see them remove the boat for the shares. 

A big fan of America's Cup boats, Mr Hunt tells Crux he has also owned two others, which he sold on for a collective total of $1.5 million.

It was his intention to fix up the yacht, and use it for educational tours with local and visiting youth.

The boat sailed for New Zealand in the 1992 America’s Cup challenge as a trial yacht by a Russell Coutts-led team, and it has a 35-metre-high, carbon-fibre mast.

An earlier version of this story says Geoff Hunt originally brought the boat to Queenstown five years ago. This has been changed to say bought. 

Main image: America's Cup boat NZL 14 was deemed 'abandoned' in Queenstown Bay, and has since been removed from the lake.

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