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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Floods Destroy First Inner Haven

Floods Destroy First Inner Haven

During the early days of European settlement in Poverty Bay most of the shipping business was handled on the south-west side. Large vessels stood off Wherowhero (Muriwai) and small craft were towed up the Waipaoa River as far as Harris's loading bank at Opou. Only small schooners and cutters took the risk of nosing their way into the Turanganui River, which was described by Captain Cook in 1769 as being marred by having “a Bar on which the Sea sometimes runs so high that no [ship's] Boat can either get in or out, which happened whilst we laid there, but I believe that Boats can generally land on the N.E. side of the River [Boat Harbour.]”

Captain Read, who had built two small jetties within the river, was permitted by the Auckland Provincial Council in 1872 to erect a public wharf on the western side, and, to enable him to recover his outlay, he was allowed to charge wharfage dues over a period of 15 years. G. Harris was sent from Wellington to act as collector of customs. In October, 1874, Captain J. B. Kennedy was appointed harbourmaster, and, during the following year, the gullet at the entrance was widened and deepened. When the borough assumed control of the harbour in 1877, all the foreshores were native property, and William Adair had taken over Read's wharf rights. It had only a small landing place which the Highways Board had built at the foot of Gladstone Road in 1875.

In 1877 Captain T. Chrisp (who had become harbourmaster in 1875) designed an outer harbour, “protected by a mole running along the line of reef to the buoy, and enclosing an area of 200 acres of safe anchorageground, having a depth of from 12 feet to 20 feet at low water.” The ratepayers, by 132 votes to 12, approved a proposal to raise £50,000 for the work, and Captain Read offered to advance the money at 9 per cent. interest. The project was held up in the hope that the Government would grant an endowment to enhance the security and that it would take over the foreshore rights from the natives. The Legislative Council rejected a proposal that an endowment of 20,000 acres should be granted.

Reporting on the port in 1880, Sir John Coode (the eminent British harbour engineer) held that substantial improvements within the river would not justify the heavy expenditure that would be involved. He recommended page 409 that a solid breakwater pier should be built off, but slightly to the east of, Boat Harbour. His plan provided that the pier should be linked with a masonry root (extending for 550 feet) by an open iron viaduct 1,410 feet in length. Under his scheme, sheltered quayage to the extent of 1,600 feet in a depth ranging from 21 feet to 30 feet would have been afforded. The estimated cost was £246,000.

In 1884 control of the harbour was vested in a board. Its members (who met for the first time on 19/2/1885) were: W. Sievwright, G. Matthewson and A. Graham (Government nominees), C. A. de Lautour (mayor of Gisborne), G. L. Sunderland (chairman of Cook County), J. Townley and T. J. Dickson (representing the borough ratepayers), and J. Sunderland and W. K. Chambers (representing the county ratepayers). A. Graham was appointed chairman. Valuable foreshore endowments, including the site upon which the Kaiti freezing works now stand, were granted to the board by Parliament upon condition that it might lease but not sell them. Upon a similar condition the board received the Tauwhareparae block of 44,044 acres. In 1890 portions of this block were leased on a rental basis of 1½d. per acre. The rentals now (1949) range up to 6/7½ per acre, and the block affords the board an income of £6,690 per annum.

By 998 votes to 5 the ratepayers, on 15 April, 1885, sanctioned the raising of £200,000 to build, at or near the site reported on by Sir John Coode, a refuge for vessels of large tonnage. The rating district comprised the borough of Gisborne and the areas which now form the counties of Cook, Uawa, Waikohu, Waiapu and Matakaoa—in all, 3,088 square miles. A special rate of 1d. in the £ on all rural lands, and of 2d. in the £ on town property, was part of the terms. As the nucleus of a 1 per cent. sinking fund, £25,000 of the loan moneys had to be set aside. The issue was an outstanding success on the London market, £899,000 being offered at an average price of £102.

Appointed engineer in July, 1885, John Thomson, B.E., drew up a plan which showed a mole running out 2,270 feet from the eastern bank of the river into 30 feet of water. Included in the scheme was a bridge near the mouth of the river to connect the mole by tramline with a goods shed on Waikanae Beach. Complaint was made by J. Thompson, R.E., that the idea was similar to that which he had placed before the board in July, 1885. However, neither a demand which he made upon the board for £2,187 as compensation, nor a petition which he sent to Parliament, bore fruit. Mr. Thomson told the Marine Department that to anyone acquainted with floods on the West Coast (South Island) those which were experienced in Poverty Bay were scarcely worthy of the name. Snags, he said, did not reach the river; they were caught by intervening fences!