The MBTBC Marina Story – By George Davie

It is coming up to 24 years since the official opening of the Marina and 27 years since we started constructing. I have been asked to explain the history and mechanics of setting up that important development.

The Club’s Management Committee of the day in 1984-85 thought our Club should have a Marina and started investigating the possibility.  However, in 1986, that year’s committee asked John Harper and myself to see if we could look at the project and its viability.  As we both owned berths and boats in the RQYS Marina complex and therefore had some experience in using marinas, we accepted and circulated a brochure on a possible proposal to members for expression of interest.  Approximately 50 members showed some interest and that was very encouraging.  A Company called MBTBC Marina Ltd was formed and a Board of Directors appointed with John Harper as Chairman. Unfortunately, when we asked for deposits only 25 came forward.  As there was a recession at that time, and Wynnum Manly Yacht Club had already started their Marina, a decision was made to delay the project because of the risk involved.  The Board continued to meet every 6 months to analyze the interest and demand in conjunction with the economy.  In 1990 we decided to proceed.

A major project that had many challenges to overcome –

* Environmental and the usual protests from some in the Community against a development of this type.

* Acquisition of the area of water and land and the financial issues of building something of this nature over three million dollars, prior to being able to hand over a berth for sale with legal title.

Based on information of other successful club marina projects, the Marina Company structure was set up as a separate identity to the Club.

This was necessary so that there was no financial risk to the Club. Also, in return for members to purchase and fund the project so that they would be comfortable that their initial and future financial input could not be used for other purposes other than to build the Marina and maintain and provide future funds for ongoing dredging, replacement and other provisions, and that their investments would always be secure.

The Club’s benefits were also enormous with the attraction of new members and keeping the members who may have moved to other clubs if they changed from trailer boats to larger craft.  Also, the cruising vessels visiting the Marina using the Club’s facilities.

The Board of Directors structure was also planned so that there were four Directors elected from the berth owners, and the three senior flag officers each year of the Club appointed to the Board also.  This maintained a balance in the decision making so that the Club management was involved in all policy decisions made.

The lease obtained from the Port of Brisbane Authority was for 20 years, plus a further 20 years option.  The sale of the berths then became a sub lease sold to the members for the same term and when the leases are renewed at the end of those periods they automatically pass onto the owners of the berths at that time.

The owners of the berths are charged a six-monthly fee to cover all outgoing expenses of the Company and that includes statutory charges for each berth from the Port of Brisbane at that time but now Transport and Main roads.  Also built into those charges is a provision to build up the reserves for any of those extraordinary expenses of the future.  All part of responsible financial planning.

To finance the Marina construction, it was necessary to ask the applicants for berth ownership to pay a deposit and then agree to pay installments as required by the Company to meet the construction expenses.  We had nothing to mortgage for a bridging loan of that magnitude.  The Marina would not have been possible without the trust and support that the first 100 or so members showed in the Board to get this project to the stage where we had deep water and some berths constructed to keep their boats, and then attract new buyers which would allow the project to be completed.

After the initial process of setting up, working through the government and public consultations, the planning, engineering, contractors, costing, marketing, budgets and cash flows completed, the construction started.

The dredging was done two ways. 75% of the area had a bund wall pushed up at low tides until the area was secure, then the soil was removed in the dry by a fleet of excavators and trucks over many months.  Then the bund wall was removed and the area flooded.  A suction dredge dredged the other 25% that was not possible to do in the dry.

Piles were then driven and pontoons started to be put into place to the extent that we could afford.  Berth owners were then allocated a berth for their boats, even if the berth they purchased was not in place at that time.  As we continued to sell berths, that money kept the project going.  In fact, the sales kept coming at such a rate after we had boats and berths in place that we never stopped adding.  By the time the contractors had finished the ones we committed ourselves to, they were given more to do and so forth.  The parking and hardstand was then completed.  Eventually all berths were sold which allowed the construction of the office and toilet block.  As well as the installation of the travel lift jetty, fuel pontoon and fuel installation.

With the final touches completed, the Marina was opened officially on 13th February 1993.

The staff we had then and since then, have helped significantly to make the project not only successful, but also internationally known by the cruisers returning to their country with only good reports about the Marina and Club.

Extracts of some of the costs for this project over 25years ago: –

Plans and engineering approval etc. $115,000

Dredging, some rock wall repair & ground work $800,000

Piles, pontoons & services $1,200,000

Travelift (second hand) $95,000

Hardstand area, parking area etc. $130,000

Office and toilet block $150,000

Fuel facility $70,000

And other items made up the remainder.

A total of which was a 215 BERTH MARINA for $3,400,000. To do that today it would be three times that.

The travel lifts we purchased came from a liquidated company on the north side of the river and we saved $150,000 from the cost of a new one.  However, we had the dilemma of how to get it to the Marina at a reasonable price without dismantling and rebuilding.  That is a story on its own which I will tell separately.