Covid 19 coronavirus: Travel restrictions spark NZ boat-building boom

Covid-19 has given New Zealand’s $2.45 billion-a-year boat building industry a shot in the arm as more and more Kiwis explore their own back yard due to international travel restrictions.

At the same time, supply chain problems have slowed down the availability of parts, restricting the supply of new boats while demand heats up.

Some of New Zealand’s 100 or so boat builders have sold out well into 2021 and many are taking on more staff to cope with the demand.

It’s not all been one-sided. Those parts of the marine industry tied to the luxury yacht visits have suffered as travel restrictions have curtailed visits.

And the influx of vessels for the America’s cup will not be anywhere near as great as previous regattas.

But for boat builders, demand is hot and NZ Marine Industry Association chief executive Peter Busfield said he expects that trend to continue through this year and 2022.

“We have always considered overseas travel as being a major competitor to the marine industry and that trend looks pretty unlikely to tail off in the next couple of years,” Busfield said.

The trend of strong demand for leisure craft started in northern hemisphere markets – particularly America – where the sector took off during the summer.

That trend continued on the domestic scene, starting from last August.

“When our market started, we experienced the same uplift as people who could not travel wanted to see their own back yard and to see it in style,” Busfield said.

“We have a lot of lakes, rivers and cruising grounds in New Zealand, so those with available funding, and with interest rates being so low, this has allowed them to buy a boat or a bigger boat, so we saw a big increase in demand from August onward, and that has continued.”

Kiwis have a strong preference for locally made leisure craft.

In the trailer power boat market, 90 per cent of the boats sold in New Zealand are made in New Zealand.

In the three months last November, the industry took on 170 apprentice boat builders, engineers and boat painters, up from 40 in the previous corresponding period in 2019.

Busfield said the pandemic had a direct beneficial impact on New Zealand’s industry, but there was a flipside.

New Zealand has long been a destination for the servicing of the superyachts from overseas, so travel restrictions has affected that part of the industry.

Busfield said signs were emerging of a shortage of available stock as supply chain problems caused by the pandemic had delayed the arrival from overseas of components, which had made them more expensive.

Demand for boats was strong across the board, right up to the large cruisers.

At 90 per cent, New Zealand is level with the United States, with the highest ratio of locally made boats sold into the domestic market.

About 25 per cent of – $600m – of New Zealand-made boats are exported.

Outside of dairy and meat production, boat building is one of New Zealand’s biggest manufacturing sectors.

Maritime NZ, noting the strong lift in boat sales, last month called for boaties to put safety first.

According to Maritime NZ research, 1.7 million Kiwis go out on the water every year – including people on jetskis, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards.

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