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

Building of the Breakwater

Building of the Breakwater

A start was made early in 1886 to build the breakwater under the day labour system. Sir J. Coode's recommendations were departed from in respect of design as well as site. As no plan had been placed before the ratepayers, W. L. Rees and others who favoured the building of an outer harbour off Stony Point complained to the Government. Parliament validated the loan poll, but insisted that, before any more money was expended, the ratepayers should again be consulted. On 14 November, 1888, the ratepayers, by 600 votes to 30, approved the expenditure of a further £40,000. The balance of the loan moneys was required to be invested with the Public Trustee.

By 1890 1,100 feet of breakwater (running into a depth of between 12 feet and 14 feet at low tide) and a portion of the groyne had been built at a cost of £105,000. A sandspit then formed alongside the breakwater, page 410 and the depth at the entrance to the river was reduced from between 3 feet and 4 feet to between 2 feet and 3 feet at low tide. At this juncture the board made default in the payment of the interest on the loan. As New Plymouth was in a like predicament, an outcry arose in political circles. Mr. Thomson resigned. It was held by C. Y. O'Connor, C.E., and Napier Bell, C.E., that, if the Thomson scheme had been completed, it would have been a failure.

Upon Mr. Bell's advice the dredge John Townley was obtained in 1902. Although she proved useful, the sandspit kept on recurring. [She remained in commission until 1929, and was sunk on the northern side of Young Nick's Head in June, 1931.] A further section of the groyne was then completed. The Marine Department vetoed a proposal by L. H. Reynolds, C.E., that sluice gates should be built below the junction of the Waimata and Taruheru Rivers, but permitted the Turanganui River to be restricted to some extent on the Kaiti side just below the Gladstone Road bridge. In 1907 F. W. Marchant, C.E., submitted a plan of an outer harbour, off Pa Hill, which he estimated would cost £330,000. Legislative authority to take a poll on a proposal to borrow £400,000 was not availed of.

Upon the arrival of the dredge Maui from Scotland on 7 May, 1910, high hopes were raised that a satisfactory inner harbour would be gained. She cost £34,000 and was capable of excavating to a depth of 26 feet. Working under favourable conditions, she speedily cut a channel, 120 feet wide and 16 feet deep at low water, from the mouth of the river to the wharves. To counteract the range at the entrance, the breakwater was extended in 1911, but the old nuisance of a sandbank reappeared.

When J. A. MacDonald, M.I.C.E., became the board's engineer in February, 1912, he hurried along the work of widening and deepening the channel. In December of that year s.s. Takapuna was able to begin a wharf-to-wharf passenger service between Gisborne and Napier. Among even larger vessels which came into the river was s.s. Kaitangata, which was 289 feet long and drew 17 feet. In February, 1914, H.M.S. Philomel (2,875 tons) had no difficulty in berthing close to the Gladstone Road bridge, although she was drawing 17 feet. A loan poll on 17 December, 1913, which was carried by 1,105 votes to 469, provided, inter alia, £107,000 for new works, including a further extension of the breakwater. Waiapu gained exclusion from the harbour district.