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

Destructive Floods

Destructive Floods

A startling change came over the scene in 1916, when a series of siltbearing floods between May and October destroyed the inner harbour. Where, previously, there had been a depth of 16 feet 6 inches at low water, there was now only 4 feet 6 inches. Further floods spoiled three attempts that were made during 1916 to restore the channel. The stern, uphill battle continued throughout 1917, but another series of floods was experienced. By March, 1918, a depth of from 8 feet to 9 feet had been obtained, but floods obliterated the gain. The Maui was laid up in June, 1918. She was taken to Auckland in 1920, and lay there until 1927, when she was hired by the Marine Department to do some work at Westport. The State bought her in 1929 for £16,000, but reconditioning, to bring her up to survey standards, cost the board £9,370.

In 1918, Mr. Reynolds submitted a plan for a harbour with two chambers. To obviate the silt nuisance, it provided that the river should be diverted on to Waikanae Beach. It was intended that only the western compartment (which would have stood between the river channel and the diversion cut) should, at the outset, be built, and that the entrance should be protected by a breakwater sweeping in an easterly direction page 411 from the end of the eastern wall of the cut. The other chamber was to have been built on the eastern side of the mouth of the river. Mr. Reynolds estimated the cost of the first section of the works at £568,000, and of the whole scheme at £869,000.

Parliament, in 1919, sanctioned the taking of a poll on a proposal to raise £1,000,000 for a harbour to accommodate vessels of large tonnage. Waiapu and Uawa gained exclusion from the proposed harbour district, but a small portion of Wairoa County was added. During 1920 the Reynolds plan was referred to a commission (W. Ferguson, C.E., Blair Mason, C.E., and Cyrus Williams, C.E.). They designed a straightout outer harbour. It would have stood on the eastern side of the entrance to the river, and would have cost £1,585,000. When the board intimated that it would be too costly, the commission submitted a modified plan to bring the cost just under £1,000,000. These plans, together with expenses, cost the board close upon £4,500.

There was much controversy as to whether the commission's plan or the Reynolds plan should be adopted. In 1922 Mr. Reynolds eliminated from his plan some of the outer wharves, and reduced his estimate to £750,000. The Board (J. Tombleson dissenting) then adopted it. The poll on a proposal to raise £1,000,000 was held on 9 August, 1922, and resulted: For, 2,197; against, 816. R. Campbell, who was appointed engineer, arrived from Australia in January, 1923. The board decided that the bulk of the work should be carried out by day labour. Some months were occupied by a large staff in compiling data, drawing plans, etc.

In October, 1923, the engineer sought permission to purchase the necessary plant. However, W. G. Sherratt proposed, and C. H. Williams seconded, that only the river section of the works should, at the outset, be put in hand. The motion was defeated by 11 votes to 4. Dr. J. C. Collins then moved, and J. Tombleson seconded, that tenders be called for dredging the cut, erecting the training walls, constructing the breakwater, and providing 1,000 feet of additional berthage. The voting was: For, 8 votes; against, 7. By the same narrow margin this decision was reaffirmed on 23 October, 1923.