Huntly lakeside property home to dive school

5:00 AM Wednesday December 2, 2015 Colin Taylor

The land and buildings at 63 Rotowaro Rd, Huntly, house the New Zealand School of Commercial Diver Training

Waikato land and buildings housing New Zealand’s only commercially-graded training school for offshore divers have been placed on the market for sale.

The property includes a two-storey commercial building at 63 Rotowaro Road in Huntly and sits directly opposite little-known Lake Puketirini – now a huge aquatic and diving facility created from what was once an open face coal mining pit.

The Huntly property is being marketed for sale by Bayleys Hamilton salesperson Josh Smith through an auction being held in Hamilton on December 9.

The 830 square metre building on 16,162 sq m of freehold land is solely occupied by the New Zealand School of Commercial Diver Training – which trains divers from around the world to work at deep depths on engineering-based projects such as oil rigs and pipelines, wharf and bridge construction, and wreck recovery.

The school has a current five year lease running through until 2019 with two further three-year rights of renewal taking the potential lease in its current format out to 2025. The lease produces annual rent of $90,000 plus GST - increasing up to $96,000 plus GST for the next three years.

The building is configured into multiple classroom facilities and administrative offices. There is also onsite accommodation for trainees studying at the school and substantial warehouse-styled storage facilities housing multiple dive boats and equipment maintenance amenities. The storage structure is surrounded by a sizeable concreted platform and is adjacent to an outdoor courtyard facility.

Smith says the wooden framed building has a colourful history. “It housed one of Huntly’s rugby clubs before becoming a successful function venue serviced by a commercially-outfitted kitchen.”

The premises was modernised and refurbished in 2009 to create four separate tenancies if required at a later date and now has an Initial Evaluation Procedure (IEP) seismic rating of 65 per cent.

Smith says the property encompasses a considerable amount of vacant undeveloped land which could house other commercial premises or business opportunities. Currently the land is used as car parking for school attendees and for boating-craft trailer parking by members of the public.

“Future use opportunities include the likes of a secure marine storage park, a marine servicing plant, or even a café  – any of which would aptly complement the adjacent lake’s growing popularity as a recreational site frequented by water skiers, waka ama crews, or small sailing craft including paddle-boarders, board-sailors and kite-surfers,” he says.

As the only diving academy of its type in this country, New Zealand School of Commercial Diver Training courses are accredited under the Australian Diver Accreditation Scheme and the International Maritime Contractors Association. Starting out with purely a domestic focus in 2000, students from around the world now attend the school.

Smith says an attraction is the ease of access to Lake Puketirini across the road. The lake was converted from the Solid Energy-operated Weavers Opencast Mine in 1994 and was the first New Zealand coal pit of its size to be transformed into a lake.

A site evaluation report on Lake Puketirini compiled by Waikato District Council identifies the 54 hectare lagoon as having some of the highest water quality levels in the province – making it suitable for the full range of aquatic-based recreational use. The lake has a maximum depth of 64 metres – far deeper than recreational divers can reach, but at an optimum level for training commercial divers.

“The New Zealand School of Commercial Diver Training appreciates the uniqueness of this location – which is why it has signed on to such a long lease term on its premises. In addition to its land base, the school also has a permanently-moored diving barge anchored in the middle of the lake,” Smith says.

The lake’s surrounding area is owned and administered by Waikato District Council which has constructed a range of walking and cycling tracks around the water’s edge.

“With its high water quality, easy accessibility, relatively peaceful shoreline setting and range of use options, Lake Puketirini has the potential to become a recreational magnet for the Northern Waikato region,” says Smith.

“The lake’s user-catchment now stretches from Pokeno in the north, down to Hamilton’s northern suburbs, and across to Morrinsville, Tahuna and Patetonga. The fast-growing popularity of the location has been recognised by numerous fast food and take-away caravan operators who have expressed interests in establishing a presence lakeside during the busy summer period.

“Leasing some of the available bare site to food and beverage operators on summer weekends would generate additional rental, while allowing the diver training school to function without interruption to its core weekday activities.”