Kaipara Harbour’s newest wharf factoring in half-metre sea level rise

4:14 pm on 2 December 2020

Pouto's new $1.8 million wharf will be built to allow for about half a metre of sea level rise.

Pōuto community members at Fisherman's Point where the wharf will soon stand.

Pōuto community members at Fisherman's Point where the wharf will soon stand. Photo: LDR / Susan Botting

Construction of Kaipara Harbour's newest wharf in one of Northland's most challenging harbour environments is expected to begin in April.

The Fisherman's Point wharf will bring to an end more than 60 years without a local facility of its type for the tiny Pouto community.

The 30m-long T-shaped structure will stand about 10m above the sea floor at its outer seaward end. It'll be 2m above the highest of tides, that height allowing for about half a metre's sea level rise by 2070.

About 60 people turned out to a Kaipara District Council (KDC) wharf-themed community drop-in meeting in the settlement recently. Wharf access, maintenance, appearance, how the wharf will link into the land it juts out from and supporting toilet facilities for visitors were among topics discussed. Ratepayers will be paying for the PGF-funded wharf's ongoing maintenance.

Pouto is one of Northland's most isolated communities, almost at the windswept entrance of the giant 950sq km Kaipara Harbour. It's at the end of the winding road roughly an hour's drive south of Dargaville, at the tip of Pouto Peninsula which forms the harbour's long, narrow northern ocean barrier. It's also the closest point in Northland to Auckland's sky tower.

Pouto's first wharf was built out of kauri in the 1920s, lasting about 30 years and demolished in the late 1950s. It followed a jetty built in 1914.

The soon-to-be-built wharf will be the newest on Kaipara Harbour in more than 30 years - the most recent was the 100m-long Shelley Beach wharf on the harbour's South Kaipara Head shore near Auckland.

When finished, the wharf will provide all-tide boat access for Coastguard, tourists, fishing, locals and more. It will provide a tourist link across the sometimes challenging harbour to Helensville, about 60km to the south and into Auckland.

The wharf is part of KDC's Kaipara Harbour Wharves project.

"It's looking again to the harbour for our connections between Kaipara, the rest of Northland and Auckland," Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith said.

Construction is expected to begin in about April 2021, subject to getting necessary resource consents, with completion by the end of the year.

The next steps are finalising with the community and preparing and lodging a resource consent application with Northland Regional Council.

Technical design work is being done to further develop concept plans presented at the recent meeting. Engineers and design work specialists there checked in with the community and got its initial general support for the wharf design, with some further work needed before final agreement.

Pouto residents want the wharf building work to start as soon as possible.

"The wharf's an essential part of Pōuto infrastructure," Ben Hita, (Ngāti Whātua) kaumātua of Pouto's Waikāretu Marae.

"We should have had the wharf years ago. There was a plan drawn up 20 years ago that didn't happen. It's time to get started. It's long overdue," Hita said.

Pōuto retiree Kenny Righton (left) and Ben Hita (Ngāti Whātua) Waikāretu Marae kaumātua at the meeting.

Pōuto retiree Kenny Righton (left) and Ben Hita (Ngāti Whātua) Waikāretu Marae kaumātua at the meeting. Photo: LDR / Susan Botting

As a youngster, Pouto born and bred Hita made the most of the settlement's previous wharf.

"We dived and swam and fished off the old wharf in the late '40s and '50s.

"The old wharf was getting pretty rickety by then."

The new wharf's exposed and challenging location, not far short of the harbour mouth, means it will be built for ocean rather than harbour conditions - in spite of being inside Kaipara Harbour.

That means it'll be built out of strong reinforced concrete and steel rather than wood, its materials designed to withstand big tides, strong currents, the extremes created by storms, potentially big waves and the huge volumes of water moving in and out of the harbour that drains one third of Northland.

Specialist engineering is needed including for building construction.

"I can't wait for it to happen. It's going to bring employment," Chrisine McGillivray, a Pouto local said.

The new wharf would enable local business and employment. Locals would have a place to sell their garden produce, bringing economic growth. A cafe could be set up in the weekends to meet arriving boat trips.

Ngareta Richards, a Waikāretu Marae kuia, said the wharf offered tourism opportunity, camping among possibilities for the marae.

Keen to hear more about Pōuto wharf are (from left) Christine McGillivray, Cherrie Christy-Hita, Ngareta Richards and Fi Richards.

Keen to hear more about Pōuto wharf are (from left) Christine McGillivray, Cherrie Christy-Hita, Ngareta Richards and Fi Richards. Photo: LDR / Susan Botting

Steve Nathan said the wharf would potentially help bring in more low impact slow tourism, adding to the horse trekking already offered via walking and more biking.

Colin Kena said the wharf had been a long time coming. It offered new opportunity for boating.

"We want it done yesterday," Kena said.

Merilee Pairama-Hart said the wharf would offer future opportunities for Pouto's young people.

"It's a logical place for us to have a wharf," Kenny Righton, a Pouto retiree, said.

"It'll be great for tourism and circulating people around the place."

Terry Somers, Kaipara Cruises owner, said the wharf offered significant future tourism opportunity. His company has been taking visitors to and from Pouto using beach landing ramps from the boat.

Pouto had a key role in Kaipara Harbour's once-bustling maritime past. The harbour was the busiest in New Zealand as kauri milled from its shores was exported internationally. It was the first northern settlement ships came to after entering the harbour across its notorious bar, known as the graveyard and accounting for more than 100 shipwrecks.

Ships arriving from overseas would anchor at Pouto and row in to pay their customs dues in the 1884-built heritage kauri building still standing in the community today as part of the KDC-owned Pouto Marine Hall campground.

The wharf is one of three developments regenerating maritime history through the Kaipara Harbour Wharves project - along with the just-completed Dargaville wharf pontoon and Pahi wharf development.

The project aims to boost business, tourism, tangata whenua connection, ferry transport and more on the harbour. It's focused on building Otago-rail-trail-style slow tourism by linking spots across the north of the harbour.

no metadata

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.