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

Development of Kaiti Basin

Development of Kaiti Basin

Mr. Campbell, who held that the Reynolds scheme would cost £250,000 above the amount of the loan (£1,000,000), then proposed a modified plan, which omitted the outer breakwater, provided for a reduction in the depth of the channel, and included what is now known as the Kaiti Basin. This scheme (estimated to cost £500,000) was approved by the board, but the Crown Law Office ruled that it differed from that which the ratepayers had endorsed. On 24 April, 1924, the board went back to the Reynolds plan, with the addition of the Kaiti Basin. It also decided that all the work, excepting the railway bridge, the concrete wharves, the goods sheds and the breakwaters, should be carried out by day labour.

Among about £150,000 worth of plant that was obtained, the most expensive item was the dredge Korua, which, together with three steel hopper barges and a tug, cost about £64,000. [Between 1925 and 1931 the Korua excavated 1,920,000 tons of spoil. Together with two barges and a tug, she was unavailingly offered to Napier Harbour Board in 1934 for £8,000. In April, 1940, after she had lain idle in Waikanae Basin for nine years, she was sunk off Young Nick's Head.]

Tenders closed in September, 1925, for the main breakwater contract, but none came to hand. A property at Whareongaonga was then acquired, at a cost of £3,000, for a quarry, and scows and expensive equipment were procured. Attempts to build a small breakwater there to protect a jetty failed. The hulk Monowai was bought for £1,200, and, in November, 1925, page 412 it was sunk in the desired position. A few days later it was broken up by a storm. In May, 1927, on account of public dissatisfaction with the prospects, the quarry was closed. It provided about 6,000 tons of stone.

When the dredging of the diversion cut was finished on 1 July, 1927, it was found that the balance of the loan moneys would not meet the cost of completing the whole scheme. Approval was now given by the Government to a restriction of activities to the development of an inner harbour, with a berthing basin on the Kaiti side. Part of the land required was the site of the old Poho-o-Rawiri pa (1 acre 1 rood 5 poles). The native owners received £10,000 for it. On the casting vote of the chairman (Mr. Sherratt), the day labour system was retained.

In February, 1928, Mr. Campbell, who was anxious to proceed with the work of extending the existing breakwater, as well as with the inner harbour works, so that the diversion cut might be brought into use as soon as possible, asked the board to authorise the expenditure of £100,000 above the figure (£750,000) which it had assured the ratepayers, prior to the poll, it would not go without their renewed consent. Mr. Broadhurst moved, Mr. Williams seconded, and it was resolved, that the work on the breakwater should be stopped and that the balance of the loan moneys should be used to enable the Kaiti Basin to be further dredged and upon such other works as might be deemed necessary to complete the second section of the inner harbour. Mr. Campbell resigned on the ground that he could not accept responsibility for the Board's policy, and C. F. Marshall-Smith, C.E., was appointed in his stead.

The dredging of Kaiti Basin was completed in August, 1928, and the final gap in the diversion wall was closed on 26 October, 1929. By 1932 the basin was available for shipping. Additional berthages along the eastern side of the channel have also proved very useful. Vessels drawing up to 17 feet 6 inches can now (1949) safely enter or leave the basin during three hours before, or two hours after, high water. The capital outlay was £814,000.


Chairmen (under board control): A. Graham, 1885–87; W. Sievwright, 1887–88; W. H. Tucker, 1888–89; C. D. Bennett, 1890; J. Townley, Dec., 1890-Sept., 1918; F. J. Lysnar, 1918–21; G. Smith, 1921–25; W. G. Sherratt, 1925–29; J. Tombleson, 1929–38; J. A. Nicol, 1938–.

Engineers (under board control): J. Thomson, 1885–90; J. King, 1897–1903; D. A. McLeod (working supervisor), 1903–12; J. A. MacDonald, 1912–17; R. Campbell, 1923–28; C. F. Marshall-Smith, 1928–33.

Harbourmasters: J. Kennedy, 1874–75; T. Chrisp, 1875–86; H. J. C. Andrews, 1886–88; Bennett, 1888–90; A. Thomson, 1890–02; W. Cumming, 1902–13; Probert (acting) part 1913; J. Benton, 1913–15; A. Carson, 1915–39; G. McK. Smart, 1939–.

Secretaries (under board control): J. Bourke, 1885–91; J. W. Witty, 1891–1912, and then assistant treasurer till February, 1919; J. A. MacDonald, 1912–17; H. A. Barton, 1917–42; R. R. Baldrey, 1942–44; E. A. Khull, 1945–.


The busiest period experienced at the port of Gisborne lay between 1903 and 1916. In 1909, 491 steamers (696,198 tons) and 83 sailing vessels (7,987 tons) were handled. This aggregate was nearly equalled in 1914. In 1906, 142 sailing vessels (16,092 tons) paid visits, but, in 1927, only one (200 tons) called.

The first lighthouse at Tuahine Point was brought into use on 1 May, 1905. It was destroyed by fire on the night of 26 July, 1905. Its successor was equipped with the first acetylene light to be installed on the New Zealand coasts.

Harbour improvement schemes—even the ideas of laymen—were invited by Gisborne Harbour Board in 1917. About a score were received, but not one was entertained. In 1921–22 G. H. Lysnar brought litigation against the board on the ground that the Reynolds plan, which it had meantime adopted, was, allegedly, similar in some important respects (including the idea of diverting the river) to that which he had submitted. The board contended that Mr. Reynolds had advanced the diversion principle in 1892. A judgment given in Mr. Lysnar's favour in the Supreme Court was reversed by the Court of Appeal. He obtained leave to go to the Privy Council, but withdrew the proceedings. The litigation cost the board £4,661.

In July, 1948, N. V. Vickerman, C.E. (engineer to Auckland Harbour Board) informed the board that it would cost £2,860,000 to complete the Reynolds scheme. As an alternative (to cost only £410,000), he suggested that deep-water berthages, to page 413 accommodate vessels drawing up to 23 feet, should be provided within the entrance to the river. If the board decided to defer major works, it should, he considered, proceed, as opportunities offered, with developmental works on the lines suggested by Captain Smart (harbourmaster), viz., improve the entrance channel; provide more room within the lower reaches of the river, and make preparations for extra berthages. The board decided to embark, meantime, only upon the preliminary works.