Otago Harbour Board.
As early as the year 1854—only about six years after the foundation of the settlement of Otago—a petition was presented to the Otago Provincial Council, then in its first session, setting forth the inconvenience and loss to the mercantile community caused by the landing of goods at Port Chalmers, and showing how desirable it was that all vessels entering the harbour should be able to get as close as possible to Dunedin. About the same time the General Government was petitioned to remove the custom house from Port Chalmers to Dunedin, and the request was accordingly granted. The Superintendent of the province of Otago was requested by resolution of the Council in 1855, to place a sum of money on the estimates providing for the survey of the upper harbour, and to direct the pilot to bring up, all vessels as near to Dunedin as possible. Till December, 1859, there was no harbourmaster for the port, the duties being performed by Mr. Logie, the collector of customs. Captain Thomson was, however, appointed harbourmaster at the above date, and commenced his duties on the 16th of January, 1860. The control of the port was vested in the Provincial Council of Otago, which voted money from time to time for the construction of jetties, and an effort was made to dredge certain channels so as to permit vessels to approach the town of Dunedin. About 1866, a dredge, the “New Era,” was procured, and for several years she was employed in cutting various channels, several of which, however, were afterward shown to have silted up. Meantime the city of Dunedin had developed considerably in point of population, and the business of the port had enormously increased. It was not, however, till early in the year 1873 that an angilation was commenced among the most energetic citizens, with a view to have the control of the harbour vested in a board of trustees, whose special duty should be the efficient management, and, above all the development of the port. The first public meeting having such objects in view was held on the 4th of March, 1873, Mr. E. B. Cargill
being in the chair; and Messrs Fish (Mayor of Dunedin), Dench (Mayor of Port Chalmers), E. B. Cargill, J. Rattray, P. C. Neill, J. A. Walcott, J. Miller, G. G. Russell, J. McNeil, and H. Tewsley were appointed a committee to promote the formation of a harbour trust, and devise a plan for providing the necessary endowment. Many meetings were held to further these objects, and on the 1st of May, 1873, the committee discussed the subject with certain members of the Provincial Council, the result being that the appointment of a board with power to assume sole control of the harbour was recommended. At a public meeting of citizens a week later, Mr. H. S. Fish. M. P. C., was requested to take steps to secure the passing of a Provincial Council ordinance providing under “The Harbour Board Act of 1870” for the constitution of a board. Owing, however, to the short session of the Council in that year, nothing was done, and six months later—September 4th, 1873—an influential public meeting took place, when resolutions affirming the desirableness of harbour improvements, and particularly the deepening of the channel so that vessels might come up to Dunedin, were passed. A sub-committee, consisting of Messrs Robert Gillies, J. Davie, A. Thomson, W. N. Blair, J. McGregor, and G. M. Barr—generously placed their services at the disposal of the committee without fee of reward, and after the lapse of a reasonable time the engineers' reports were available. In March, 1874, the sub-committee circulated a final report on the subject, in the shape of a pamphlet of twenty-seven pages, containing their recommendations and the full text of the engineers' reports, together with plans and diagrams bearing on the subject. On the 27th of April, 1874, another public meeting of citizens expressed itself on the necessity for increased facilities for the transit of goods, suggesting that the best way to accomplish this object would be by deepening the channel, and demanding that every vessel entering the heads should be brought up to the city, if possible. The effect of this agitation was shown in the ordinance passed by the Provincial Council, constituting the Otago Harbour Board, and the Governor's assent having been gazetted on the 30th of June, 1874, the first members were duly elected. The Board held its first meeting on the 6th day of July, 1874, when His Honour the Superintendent was in the chair, and there were present also, Messrs D. Reid, A. Mercer, H. Tewsley, H. McNeil, J. Davie, C. S. Reeves, A. Thomson, and K. Ramsay. Mr. Robert Stout, now Chief Justice Sir Robert Stout, who was the first solicitor to the Harbour Board, acted for a short time as the Board's secretary, Mr. J. L. Gillies being appointed on the 15th of September, 1874; and the first engineer, Mr. D. L. Simpson, was appointed on the 1st of December of the same year. The Board at once took in hand the increase of wharf accommodation, and a contract was let before the end of the first year to extend the Rattray Street jetty, 1,140 feet, at a cost of over £12,500. As only vessels of twelve feet draught could come up to Dunedin wharf, the Board deemed it advisable to order an additional dredge, which cost nearly £20,000. Dredging operations were energetically proceeded with for a number of years, during which Dunedin had to be satisfied with the coming and going of smaller craft only, larger vessels stopping at Port Chalmers. The proposal to construct the Victoria channel was brought forward about the year 1877, and this great and important work is still in progress. A depth of sixteen feet at low water is now secured, so that vessels drawing twenty feet to twenty-one feet of water are now regularly brought up to Dunedin with the tide. The Victoria channel is to be deepened to a depth of twenty feet at low water and widened from 120 feet to 150 feet. From statistics compiled by the late Mr. J. L. Gillies and issued on the 3rd
Photo by Mr. S. H. Rawson.
U.S.S. Co.'s S.S. “Warrimoo,” drawing 21 feet at Dunedin Wharf.
H.M. Gun Boats at Dunedin. Photo by Mr. S. H. Rawson.
of October, 1893, it appears that the navigable channel, from the entrance of the harbour to Dunedin, is fourteen miles and a half in length. The entire area of the harbour is 12,750 acres, the depth of the water ranging from nothing to sixty feet at low water. There is good and safe anchorage, and channels are marked by buoys and beacons—starboard, red; port, black—from the heads to Dunedin. At the entrance of the harbour is the Taiaroa lighthouse, which is under the control of the Marine Department, and is situated on the east side of the entrance. There is a fixed red light and two leading lights, one red and one white. On the end of the mole, which has been run out to a distance of 4,100 feet, there is a green light. The staff of the establishment at the heads consists of a signal-master, resident pilot, and a boat's crew. The signal station is connected with Port Chalmers and Dunedin by telephone. The tug service in the harbour includes the screw-tug “Plucky,” of 45 nominal horse-power, and the paddle-tug, “Koputai,” of 120 nominal horse-power. Port Chalmers is six miles and a half from the heads, the ruling depth of water on the bar being thirty-four feet at low water. Inside the entrance, the channel has a depth of twenty feet at low water; thence to Port Chalmers the minimum depth is twenty-two feet. There is one light-ship in the lower channel and a guide light at Pulling Point. In Koputai Bay there is good anchorage and there are also mooring buoys. The wharves connected with the railway at the port have 5,100 feet of berthage, and the depth of water ranges from fifteen feet to twenty-six feet at low water. The sheds on the wharves belong to the railway department and to private firms. The Port Chalmers graving dock is under the control of the Otago Dock Trust; its measurements are 328 feet long, sixty-eight feet wide above, and forty-one feet below; width at the entrance, fifty feet; depth on the sill at ordinary tides, seventeen feet, and at high spring tides, nineteen feet. Attached to
Shipping at Rattray Street Wharf.
the dock is a workshop containing engineering tools and a steam-hammer suited for the heaviest class of work. There are also sheerlegs capable of lifting eighty tons. Any sized vessel up to the limit draught of water can be berthed. The distance from Port Chalmers to Dunedin by the Victoria channel is eight miles. A half-tide wall five miles in length, and 14,250 feet of walling round endowment and reserves for basins, have been constructed, and a length of 5,400 feet has been faced with wharves, having depths of water ranging from twelve feet to twenty-one feet at low tide. Vessels drawing twenty-one feet of water can load and discharge cargo at the Dunedin wharves, and can be berthed at present up to 450 feet in length. To give further depth and length is only a question of easy dredging, the bottom being very soft silt. On the Dunedin wharves there are twelve large transit sheds for receiving goods landing or for shipment, free of charge. There are eight steam-cranes with a lifting power ranging from two tons to ten tons. The Harbour Board has issued loans as follows: In 1874, £250,000 at six per cent, was authorised, the endowment security being 100 acres, all under water. In 1881, there was a further loan of £100,000 at six per cent., and in 1882–3, another of £200,000. In 1885, it was resolved to provide £150,000 additional to complete the Board's necessary works, and to provide for the consolidation of all previous loans into one. A “Consolidation Loan Act” was passed in 1885. The total indebtedness of the harbour on bonds in £687,400. The revenue which in 1874 stood at £14,600, had increased in 1893 to £42,840, and in 1902 was £70,000. The Harbour Board possesses a very large area of reclaimed land, about forty-five acres of which are leased; and from this source, the Board dervies a revenue of nearly £10,000. On this land some of the finest buildings in
S.S. “Sealda,” 5382 tons, Discharging at Dunedin.
Dunedin are erected. In addition to the above there are about twelve acres on the foreshore at Dunedin, and fifteen acres at Ravensbournce, available for lease. Thirty-eight acres of foreshore are at present (1903–4) being reclaimed by dredging, and further large areas will be undertaken in the near future. The Board has 580 acres at the north of the heads, now let with house and out-buildings, on an annual tenancy of £35 per annum. There are also twenty acres of land purchased for quarrying purposes at Kilgour's Point, half an acre at the signal station, Port Chalmers, and four acres at Taiaroa Heads, where the pilot station is located. Of late years the Board has made important additions to the Dunedin wharves and sheds; and has greatly improved the depth at the wharves and approaches. The most important works now being carried out are the construction of a stone training wall in the lower harbour above Harrington point, which, when extended, will improve the curved channel at that part, giving better water, and a straighter course. In the upper harbour the powerful 1250 ton hopper barge “222” is kept at work deepening the Victoria channel. The material is conveyed to a dumping pit on the foreshore, and thence pumped by the sand-pump “Vulcan” through a long line of pipe on to the Board's endowments, where valuable areas are being reclaimed, and put on the market for lease. Arrangements are also in hand for the better lighting of both the upper and lower harbour. The members of the Otago Harbour Board for the year 1903 were: Hon. H. Gourley (chairman), representing the boroughs of Caversham, South Dunedin, and St. Kilda; Messrs James Robin, J. T. Mackerras, T. Ross, and the Hon. D. Pinkerton, M.L.C., representing the Government; the Hon. T. Fengus, representing the Chamber of Commerce; Messrs J. Simpson and W. Dawson, representing the City of Dunedin; John Thomson, E. G. Allen, M.H.R., and John Watson, representing the borough of Port Chalmers; A. C. Begg, representing the boroughs of Mornington, Roslyn, and Maori Hill; W. Barclay, representing the boroughs of North-East Valley and West Harbour. The secretary, treasurer, and engineer of the Board is Mr. T. H. Rawson, M.I.C.E., and Captain D. McCallum is the harbourmaster and piermaster.