Kaipara boatie says dead skipper Bill McNatty 'pushed boundaries'

Bill McNatty (Supplied)
Bill McNatty (Supplied)

A conflicting picture is arising of the Francie's skipper Bill McNatty.

One man says he had previously complained to Maritime New Zealand about Mr McNatty however a friend and colleague said he would have entrusted the skipper with his children on the water.

Bill McNatty was the skipper of the charter boat when it capsized while crossing the Kaipara Harbour bar on Saturday afternoon.

Eleven men were on the ship, three were rescued, seven bodies have been recovered, but one man is still missing, presumed dead.

Wayne Bollond helped train Mr McNatty on the Francie and describes him as a competent man who learnt quickly.

"The question has got to be asked, would you send your children to sea with this skipper and if the answer is yes, he is a good skipper. And I would have sent my children to sea with Bill."

He, like many others, is still coming to terms with what happened.

"Just numb, absolutely blown away. Complete tragedy. Tragedy for the town, tragedy for the industry. The families, my heart goes out to them."

A town which is now divided over Mr McNatty's competence on the water.

Tony Walles of Kaipara Cat Fishing Charters says the skipper made the wrong call.

"He’s pushed boundaries often yes, he’s been out at times no other boats would go out."

Mr Walles says he had complained to Maritime New Zealand about Mr McNatty's conduct a year ago.

 "I had an inspector come to inspect my books.  After we'd finished with me I said to him you know there's a boat on the harbour that you really need to look at and I believe that this guy is going to kill somebody," says Mr. Walles.

"Bill's run aground local boaties. [They've] had to actually head into the mangroves to get out of his way… He’s smashed off some concrete poles just up the river a bit."

Maritime NZ says it can’t confirm whether it received a complaint from Mr Walles as an investigation is underway.

Newshub has been told that McNatty's boat had to be towed off the Kaipara Bar just last month after breaking down and the Coastguard has confirmed it did help the Francie.

Mr Bollond believes no one can judge Mr McNatty's call to cross the bar unless they were there in the moment.

The skipper makes that decision down there and for people to say he shouldn't have gone out there that didn't even see the bar is irresponsible and hurtful," Mr Bollond says.

Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) will now look  into Mr McNatty's record.

"We look at the environment, the boat, the operating crew – it’s just one of several aspects that we’ll look at.  If there are any complaints about the skipper in the past than those will be contained in the file," says TAIC chief investigator Tim Burfoot.