Mobile Unit. Wanganui Harbour

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Tono kōrero mai

This Mobile Unit recording begins with a statement from the Wanganui Harbour Board by an unidentified speaker, possibly Mr Mullins, whose interview then follows.

The statement highlights the importance of the port of Wanganui to the city and the surrounding districts.

In the years prior to the war the produce going through the port exceeded 175,000 tonnes. Including approximately 125,000 tonnes of coastal cargo, 60,000 tonnes of phosphates for the chemical works and approximately 12,000 tonnes of meat loaded in the roadster.

Shortly after the war the shipping authorities cancelled loadings in the roadster, as well as phosphate vessels and intercolonial vessels, due to the shortage of shipping. It is stated that there is still a shortage of overseas shipping of a size suitable for Wanganui, however the coastal shipping has increased during the last twelve months.

Up to the end of that year,on the 30th September 1946, the port handled over 99,000 tonnes of coastal cargo. In 1945 they disposed of the section bridge as it wasn’t suitable for the conditions and would not dredge the light silt in the turning basin. The port have ordered a new grab dredge, the hull is being built in Auckland by Mason Brothers Limited. The diesel engines and grabbing equipment will come from England. It will dredge to suitable depths at any part of the port. In the meantime they are loaning a small grab dredge from Patea and The Westport Harbour Board bucket dredge Mawhera to clean the berths by the wharf.

Mr Mullins is then interviewed on location about the harbour, with general background noise of harbour activity.

He describes the harbour from the middle of number two wharf, looking south. On the right to the west is number one wharf, ‘Mewley Wharf’ is number three wharf, looking south there is a gap which is the base of the spit, created over hundreds of years, which runs for two miles. The ‘landguard bluff’ is to their left, opposite the freezing works. The river flows around the landguard bluff, comes towards the base of the spit and flows towards number one wharf and out to sea in a westerly direction.

Mr Mullins talks about the mole which is made of shell rock and the concrete blocks, which are about ten tonnes. The spar widens out near the root of the mole, the space is 600ft which widens out to 1500ft, it dissipates waves or swells and is termed a wave basin. Ahead of them is the “Te Anau”, in what Mr Mullins says is maybe it’s last resting place. The Basin Wall is to their left, it is a closed in basin and requires dredging.

Mr Mullins comments that if a harbour is not maintained it deteriorates and dies. He says the Whanganui River causes trouble in the form of siltation, flooding and erosion, while the sea erodes the coast and takes the sand away from the spit.

Mr Mullins describes the dredging operations they need to carry out in order to maintain a constant flow of shipping.

Mr Mullins reflects on the effects of not spending money on the harbour: living costs would rise. The harbour offers cheap transport and spending money on the harbour is economical in the long run. With the building of the spit wall it will increase possibilities in the port, he believes there is more power in the water than there is in the Arapuni, which they can make use of. They plan to bring in as little current through the basin, to keep the water moving in the basin. On account of a flood coming in, the water is moving and the silt doesn’t have a chance to settle which in turn cuts down dredging, an expensive maintenance in a port. He explains the battle in Wanganui port to maintain it to make it ‘as good as any harbour on the coast’.

They discuss the woolshed which has just been built after years of planning, with a plaque marked 1945. It is currently storing wool, the woolshed is made of concrete and the metal has come out of the harbour.

Mr Mullins explains water power and how the currents of the river contain a lot of power, which can be used to their advantage, for scouring purposes. Scour, is when a flood comes and there is a lot of soft silt in the basin, the water if turned in the right direction, will take the silt out and keep it clear. There is no scheme for scouring in the harbour, they have to rely on dredging. The silt is very fine and will stay in suspension long enough to be taken out by the current. If there is no current the silt settles and they have to dredge it out.

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Year 1946

Reference number 4559

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Credits MULLINS, Mr.
New Zealand Broadcasting Service. Mobile Recording Unit
Wanganui Harbour Board

Duration 00:20:08

Date 01 Jan 1946