Bidding farewell to 66-year-old Eastern Bay car yard

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Whakatane motor dealer Wally Sutherland will be looking on sadly - when his 66 year old business goes under the auctioneer's hammer tomorrow.

All of the cars, and office and workshop equipment are being auctioned off.

The 90 year old owner has many memories to look back on, but still believes he could continue selling cars for some years yet.

Wally says he followed a traditional route in getting into the motor business.

"I did a five-year apprenticeship in Whanganui, then I went to the Korean war in 1950 and came back in 1952 on the last plane-load of originals. That's when I started this business."

The new car side of the business began with a popular German make.

"We firstly got VW in 1971 and soon after began selling Subaru. Then, in 1972, we got Mazda, and we've never looked back until now when they decided I was too old for the motor business."

Wally says while they were regularly called on to repair them, they never got into the used import market.

"Right from the time I did my apprenticeship, I knew one of the big concerns was storing cars and with these used Japanese imports you ended up waiting too long for parts.

"It was better off having vehicles that had been sold in New Zealand first."

Wally says along with a lot of Eastern Bay residents having bought their new cars from him, he's also given a lot of support to the community over the years.

A number of sporting clubs and other community groups have turned to Wally Sutherland Motors for sponsorship over the years.

Wally says it's taken some time to wrap everything up in time for the auction.

"Nobody's got any idea how many tons of paperwork we have to get rid of.

"You had to keep records on everything, including on all of the machinery, plus all the people we've employed - which is well over the hundreds. We've had about 200 apprentices."

The auction is being held on-site on Saturday from 10am. It begins with the parts followed by the vehicles at 12.30pm.

Meanwhile the Whakatane District Council has bought back the land lease for redevelopment of the site.

Chief Executive Steph O'Sullivan made the announcement earlier this year, and stated council’s intention to redevelop it as part of the Whakatane Waterfront and Town Centre Regeneration programme.

She says it'll bring together planning already under way to redevelop the wharf area and town centre enabling growth in the district's tourism and marine economies.

Steph says Mr Sutherland's decision to relinquish the land creates an opportunity to acquire a large strategically located site.

It also indicates to the government's Provincial Development Unit that the council's ready to take an active role in town regeneration and will have land available for change on a similar scale as successful projects in other towns.

The purchase will be financed from the harbour fund, and won't affect rates.

The sale takes effect on the first of July.

Sam Gardner