Romany campaigner Bob Lovell fighting to save NZ boatyard

5 June 2024
Bob Lovell

It’s back in the saddle again for Romany campaigner Bob Lovell – in a fight to save a beloved 70 year old boatyard on the coast of New Zealand.

The boatyard has been a community resource for local ‘yachties’, or sea going boat enthusiasts, for a number of decades. Bob Lovell, 74 – a yachtie or boatie himself - has built and kept many boats there over the years.

1st pic in LSB yard , 24 foot Sailing Dory I b quilt in early 90s
Bob Lovell built this 24' sailing dory in Little Shoal Bay boatyard in the 1990s

Bob Lovell says that the Little Shoal Bay boatyard near Auckland’s Waitemata is under attack by wealthy arrivals with no regard for the city’s maritime heritage, and that all the boats will be forced off unless a last-chance legal challenge succeeds.

Bob Lovell has been a member for 45 years and has been dismayed by what he sees as a smear campaign levelled against members.

“They say we are polluting the bay, but we have stiff rules for cleaning boats and the derelicts in the bay we somehow get connected with aren’t members, never have been,” Bob Lovell told the news service NZ Stuff.

Little Bilge Keeler I saved from being a wreck, 2000s
In the 2000's Bob Lovell restored a sunken bilge keeler at the boatyard

“This is about normal average people not harming anyone by caring and having a passion for sailing boats,” Bob Lovell posted on his Facebook page .”Not flash plastic rich people’s boats – but real sail boats and the people that sail them.”

The boat yard is a life saver because of it’s ‘haul out’ facilities, allowing a boat to be beached and worked on the beach above high tide.

Bob Lovell
Bob Lovell's 'oppo' Luna on a trimaran he was rebuilding in the 2000s

Following a vote by the local authorities to terminate the boat-yards licence, the boatyard campaigners said they would be making formal complaints and following them up with the Ombudsman. If that failed, a judicial review in the High Court may be on the horizon, they said.

The complaints and potential legal challenge would be based on a historic court ruling from 1989 stating that the council would have to find an alternative site if it ever wanted to phase out the boatyard, they added.

022 last trip away , returning home to LS Bay Auckland my little Yacht Midnight (junk rig
Bob's last trip in 2022, on his junk rig yacht Midnight - which he built and restored himself

Bob Lovell is a Kale – or Welsh Gypsy – and was born in New Zealand, after his father, Adolphus Lovell, demobbed there after serving in the Royal Merchant Navy as part of the Atlantic Convoy during the 2nd World War.

After also serving a stint the NZ Royal Merchant Marine as a young man in the 1960s, Bob’s love affair with the sea only deepened. A fascination with boats and yachts followed, and Bob has spent decades restoring and building ocean-going boats.

Bob Lovell in 1967. He served in the New Zealand Royal Navy on the HMNZS Blackpool, a Witby Class Frigate
Bob Lovell in 1967. He served in the New Zealand Royal Navy on the HMNZS Blackpool, a Whitby Class Frigate

Boating is not Bob’s only passion, he has also been both a professional folk musician, an ambassador for the Welsh Romanus dialect, and a veteran campaigner for Romany rights in New Zealand.

TT News

(All photographs courtesy of Bob Lovell)

In September 2022, Bob Lovell was visiting Wales and staying at his cousin Allison Hulmes’ home in Swansea for a few weeks to take part in a project to work with the Welsh Government to include the Welsh Romanus dialect into the Welsh school curriculum. The TT’ was lucky enough to catch him there on the day before he travelled back to New Zealand. Read our wide-ranging interview and listen to our recordings of Bob playing his folk music by clicking on this link: “LEAVES ON THE WIND” - WELSH KALE CAMPAIGNER AND ELDER BOB LOVELL

Good luck Bob Lovell with your latest campaign – and an early happy birthday for your 75th! From all at the Travellers’ Times.