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Don’t look under the wharf

by Jim Mikoz
I can see a major problem that will not be obvious to those who have proposed the design for rebuilding the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

It appears that there is an intention to day-light the wharf on either side of what appears to be a ramp down to an under-wharf car park. This must not be allowed to happen, as under the wharf in this area is a large stormwater pipe that carries water from the old houses on Mt Victoria. At times of heavy rainfall, the pipe carries water which is badly contaminated with sewage, chemicals, road run off and other waste products.

Fishing the wharves before the Chaffers Marina was built and other wharves were closed, we saw things that gave us an understanding of the waterfront. To gain a better understanding of the serious problem with this stormwater pipe, I will take you back to 1993 when I was asked to take part in the WCC Pollution Elimination committee. We had a series of meetings and at the last meeting there was a view that Lyall Bay had the greatest recreational use and therefore required the inter-connection correction first. At the time, our fishing club was using the Wellington Rowing Club for our meetings; looking down at the rowers and dragon boats crews using the Frank Kitts lagoon, and having surfed for many years at Lyall Bay, I began a little research to see how many used the waters of Lambton Harbour in a year.

It did not take long. I found that in 1994 dragon boats had 1200 competitors, a world triathlon event predicted 1500 competitors, a UDC event predicted 1200 competitors and a NZ triathlon event estimated another 1200 competitors. Both rowing clubs had 250 members each and used the water every weekend with schools using the equipment through the week. I provided the WCC with this information. The result: the inter-connections around Mt Victoria were corrected before those in Lyall Bay. But many of the cross connections were missed.

When the Chaffers Marina was constructed, they built a wooden wall along the wharf to prevent the surge into the marina. This had another effect – the water quality in Lambton Harbour immediately improved as the polluted stormwater, which rides on sea water for miles, began flowing along the breakwater wall. Some entered the Clyde Quay Marina, causing an increase in the marine growth on the boats.

When the Waitangi Park proposal was made public, it showed a wind turbine was going to power a pump to lift water from this stormwater pipe into the wetland and around the trees. I wrote to the mayor and a number of councillors and asked them to reconsider that proposal, because the water quality from the stormwater pipe would impact on the health of the users of the park. I suggested they look down an inspection hole to judge for themselves. I also predicted that the smell would impact on the public enjoyment and the water – full of petroleum products and lacking in quality – would kill the proposed plants and trees. The Council listened and, although it was a considerable extra cost, a high quality filtration plant running on mains power was installed. It was the correct result. No one complains about the water quality.

As a city supporting dragon boat, rowing and triathlon events, we cannot be placed in position where we give media the opportunity to photograph sewage floating under apartments costing $7million all because someone wanted to see the water under the wharf.

Jim Mikoz is President of the Wellington Recreational Marine Fishers Association