Renowned Auckland builder Mick Cookson says he may have to close in less than a month

One of New Zealand’s best known boat builders, Cookson Boats Ltd, has announced that it will probably close its doors in late March when it has completed its two current projects: a 52-footer and an 80-footer. The good news is that Mick Cookson, managing director, predicts it will be a temporary measure.
He will retain the large, specialist, hi-tech boatbuilding factory in Auckland and will be ready to open up again if a suitable project comes along, such as a Transpac 52 or bigger.
Cookson Boats specialises in top-end, race boats for the international regatta circuits and has a reputation for delivering a high standard of build, on time. Its high profile projects have included Emirates Team New Zealand’s yachts for the 2000, 2003 and 2007 America’s Cups; the 100ft lifting, canting keel yacht Maximus; the Juan K-designed canting keel, water ballasted racer Speedboat; and Jean Pierre Dick’s first Volvo Ocean 60, Virbac and more recently Artemis and the IRC55 Living Doll. In 1995 Cooksons built Larry Ellison’s Sayonara which won the storm-battered 1998 Sydney Hobart Race and in 1998 it built Steve Fosset’s PlayStation.
Cookson also developed the Cookson 50 range of canting keel racers and cruiser racers, including Pussy Galore, Aero and High 5.
The company was established by Mick Cookson’s father, Terry Cookson, more than 30 years ago.
Mick Cookson told his 62 staff in mid-February staff that there would be probably be no work for them after March.
“I had to tell the boys the real situation. There was some grumbling but I said, ‘Hang on, this is the way it is, boys. I had no option.'”
Cookson says there was no thought of trying to avoid the inevitable and attempt to stay open in an unrealistic situation. “It’s the way I’ve been brought up – I’ve never ordered anything I can’t pay for and I don’t intend to.
“The last couple of months I’ve been looking at different options – how bad is this thing? And I haven’t seen any good indicators anywhere,” he says.
“The only way we could do something sensible was to say, ‘Right, when we finish the work we’ve got on we just stop and when we’ve got something of some value [we can start again] – but nobody knows who will undercut who, to get what. There will always be someone who will just low ball something out of desperation and there’s always a bottom line and you got to know where it is and we know where ours is.
The grand prix race boats market is also flat with some events either cancelled or looking shaky.
“I haven’t had time to get really upset about it and we’ve been in the game long enough. In the past when we’ve had nothing I’ve just done a spec boat or done something new and it’s paid off but this time I think the best thing to do to survive through a period of nothing is to shut it down.”
If the America’s Cup situation was sorted out, that would definitely help, he says. “Absolutely but you’d be a fool if you banked on that.”