Back to top anchor
Close main menu
Open main menu Close main menu

'Huge loss for the community': NZ's oldest yacht club in biggest battle

Issue date

New Zealand's oldest club is facing one of the biggest challenges in its 167-year history, as it seeks urgent funding to complete earthquake-strengthening on its main building. 

Should it succeed, Nelson Yacht Club can ensure it remains in its prime current location on the city’s picturesque waterfront. 

If it fails to do so, the club, established in 1857, and a cornerstone of the Nelson community faces an uncertain future.

According to club manager Tim Fraser-Harris, the club contracted engineers in 2022 to conduct an initial seismic assessment, prompted by concerns over the lack of bracing in the sub-floor discovered during foundation work.

"The engineers found that the building would likely fall in the region of 20-25 per cent of national building standard (NBS), mainly due to a significant lack of bracing on all levels.

"Their advice was that a full Detailed Seismic Assessment (DSA) was not necessary as the deficiencies were clear and they were instead contracted to complete engineering design to bring the building up to 67 per cent NBS."

Nelson City Council has since issued a letter notifying the club that the building may be earthquake-prone. 

"Council is aware of our efforts to rectify the situation, and we have until December before they will require us to demonstrate that the building is not earthquake-prone or provide a DSA, after which it is expected that an earthquake-prone building (EPB) notice would be issued," Fraser-Harris said.


Nelson Yacht Club needs a total of $568,000 to complete seismic strengthening work. Photos / Supplied

The club requires a total of $568,000 to complete the necessary work. It has already raised and spent about $70,000 and has received a further $20,000 in donations. It has also applied for funding grants.

"It is a massive hurdle for a small provincial club like ours. We are proud to be quite self-sufficient most of the time, but a challenge like this means we need to call on the help of others.

"We need to be in a position where we have sufficient funds in place to go ahead with the construction work over the winter," Fraser-Harris said.

"The construction timeline is estimated to be around three months. This will mean that our sailing season is not affected, as well as being the off-season for other stakeholders like Nahm Restaurant, Nourish Catering, Nelson Tri Club, Nelson Bays Team Sailing, Sailability Nelson, Tasman Bay Cruising Club - all of whom use the facilities or would be otherwise more significantly affected by the works."


A reduction in the club's use would be a big loss for the Nelson community, Tim Fraser-Harris warns. Photos / Supplied

It's not the first time the club has faced adversity - it suffered severe storm damage from ex-tropical Cyclone Fehi in 2018, resulting in significant repair work to the foundations and replacement of its deck structure and concrete. 

"If we don't raise these funds and complete the required strengthening, we will have to reconsider the use of the building over the long term. Most likely, we would have to limit or reduce its use. This would not only have massive financial consequences for the club, it would be a huge loss for the Nelson community," Fraser-Harris said.

In the worst-case scenario, demolition and removal of the building was possible but the cost would likely exceed that of the strengthening project. 

"It is a really tricky funding landscape at the moment, but the more support that we can find from the local and wider yachting community, the better. 

"It seems like a big number, but with lots of people chipping in even a small amount, it can quickly bring things more within sight." 

How you can help

  • Donate to Nelson Yacht Club's Strengthening for Future Generations project on their website by clicking here. Significant contributions are recognised with a plaque on the balustrade at the club.
  • Support Nelson Yacht Club's cause through The Kiwi Cup - Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron's new fundraising initiative, run in conjunction with Emirates Team New Zealand, and supported by Yachting New Zealand and Live Sail Die.
  • Click here to donate via Nelson Yacht Club's Givealittle page.