The Old Custom House Ahuriri Napier 2020
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The Old Customhouse, Custom Quay, Ahuriri, Napier, 2020
Built in 1895
Text on signs –
“Whakarire Dredge, c. 1935, Dave Williams, Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, W211.
Looking aft down the dredge bucket ladder while dredging.
The Whakarire Dredge
The dredge buckets and the anchor in front of the Old Customhouse are all that remains in Ahuriri of the Whakarire, a bucket dredge operated by the Napier Harbour Board between 1911 and 1973. The maker was Lobnitz & Co. established in Renfrew, Scotland in 1874 by Danish immigrant Henry Christian Lobnitz. The company name is on the buckets. Lobnitz & Co. became a leading manufacturer of dredges for gold field and harbour works, also building barges and tugs, and warships for the navy. A landmark contract was the manufacture of dredges used to construct the Panama Canal. The Whakarire was built for the Wellington Harbour Board in 1905 and sailed to New Zealand via the Suez Canal. The Whakarire first worked in Napier in 1911, when the Harbour Board hired her for exploratory dredging for a proposed inner harbour development scheme. Over a 2-month period an area of 200 square metres (4 ha) was dredged to a depth of 10.4 metres.
In 1934 the Napier Harbour Board bought the Whakarire from the Wellington Harbour Board to deepen the breakwater harbour to between 9.0 and 10.7 metres so that larger ships could berth, hence avoiding the ongoing and cumbersome process of lightering. The project involved removal of sand and papa clay. Harder sections were blasted to reduce wear and tear on the dredge, and large rocks that were dredged up were lifted out of the buckets and dumped on the seaward side of the breakwater. In 1936 the Auckland Harbour Board’s dredge, Hapai was hired for a year to work with the Whakarire to speed up the project.
During World War II the Whakarire was requisitioned from August 1942 until 1944 by the New Zealand government and modified to serve as a boom ship forming a wartime blockade at the entrance to Auckland Harbour. During this period the Napier Harbour Board had to call on the Otago Harbour Board dredge, Otakau, to maintain the breakwater harbour.
The aging Whakarire underwent major refits in Lyttelton in 1958, 1960 and around 1970, including boiler replacement, new propellers, tail shafts and dredge ladder. In the final refit the boiler was converted to oil firing.
The Whakarire was finally retired in 1973, sold for scrap, and towed to Auckland in 1974. The gears off the top of the bucket chain are today a feature of a small reserve at Wynyard Point on the Auckland Waterfront.
During her working life in Napier the Whakarire removed more than 4.5 million tonnes of rock and sand from the seabed – a major contribution to Napier harbour works. The Napier Harbour Board also owned a grab hopper dredge and two suction dredges but since 1973 all dredging work for the Harbour Board and its successor Napier Port has been done by contract.
1,819 gross tonnage, length 180 feet (54.8 metres), beam 36 feet (11.1 metres).
Bottom discharge hopper capacity 600 tons. The dredge buckets could also discharge direct to barges alongside.
Two Lobnitz 2-cylinder steam engines, 120 horsepower, were situated aft of the hopper, driving twin screws and the bucket chain.
The boiler was forward of the hopper beneath the funnel, and a steam-driven centrifugal pump in the engine room was used to empty the hopper through a pipeline during reclamation work.
A model of the Whakarire and further information on her story can be viewed inside the Old Customhouse Museum.
Sign sponsored by
The dredge bucket ladder.
The bucket drive gears and tumbler blocks now situated at Wynyard Point on the Auckland waterfront.”
IN 1855 NAPIER WAS DECLARED A CUSTOMS PORT OF ENTRY, AND THE FIRST COMBINED CUSTOM/POST-OFFICE WAS ERECTED ON THE CORNER OF MILTON AND BATTERY ROADS.
A WHARF SEARCH SHED OFFICE WAS OPENED IN 1856 ON SECTION 501 WAGHORNE STREET. IN 1864 A NEW CUSTOMHOUSE WAS BUILT THE WHARF SEARCH SHED OFFICE
THE CUSTOMHOUSE BUILT ON THIS SITE WAS COMPLETED AND OPENED IN 1895 AND SERVED NAPIER UNTIL 1953, WHEN THE DEPARTMENT WAS MOVED TO THE CITY. SINCE THEN THE BUILDING HAS BEEN USED BY SEVERAL GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS.
BECAUSE OF AGE AND DISREPAIR, THE BUILDING FACED DEMOLITION. THE HAWKE’S BAY HARBOUR BOARD INITIATED A RESCUE OPERATION AND, ON THE 1ST OCTOBER 1988, PURCHASED THE BUILDING FROM THE N.Z. GOVERNMENT. SINCE THEN IT HAS BEEN COMPLETELY RESTORED AND RENOVATED.
IN AUGUST 1989 THE HARBOUR BOARD SET UP A TRUST TO ADMINISTER THE BUILDING. THE CUSTOMHOUSE WAS THEN PRESENTED TO THE CITIZENS OF NAPIER AND HAWKE’S BAY FOR USE AS A MEETING PLACE AND FUTURE MARITIME MUSEUM.
The Building is available for hire to organisations at a nominal rental
Enquiries should be directed to the Secretary Phone”
“The Iron Pot
The Iron Pot
This area at Port Ahuriri was known as the Iron Pot from the time of European settlement, because of its association with whaling and traders.
Trypots were used in the process of “trying out” or melting down strips of whale blubber (the fatty outer skin). The fire under the pot was fuelled with crisp scraps of skin left from the trying out. The extracted oil was then cooled and stored in tuns (barrels holding 955 litres) for export.
Whale oil was used in lighting, cooking, and tanning, and for lubricating machinery. Whalebone and baleen were used in corsets and whips. Ambergris, a waxy substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales, was used in perfume making.
This trypot was used by William Morris, who came to New Zealand from Blackrock, County Cork, Ireland. Morris began his lifelong career as master whaler and trader c.1836 in the Gisborne area. By 1842 he was at Waikokopu, near Nuhaka: the site where William and James Ward had established the first shore-based whaling station in Hawke’s Bay ten years earlier.
Morris built a home at Waikokopu, farmed land, and ran a store there, but also established seasonal shore whaling stations at Whakaari (Flat Point, Tangoio), and at Rongoa-Ika south of Cape Kidnappers. When William Morris died on 8 July 1882, he was still running a store at Port Ahuriri, with sperm oil a major source of his sales income.
The trypot was salvaged from the Whakaari site on 23 February 1916 by Russell Duncan and helpers.
William Morris’s general store in Waghorne Street, Ahuriri.
William and his wife Peti, are in the centre on the downstairs veranda.
The salvage of William Morris’s trypot, which had been pushed out to sea by picnickers and could be retrieved only at low tide.
Photographs from the collection of the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi
Sign sponsored by
“In Loving Memory of
21.4.1933 – 1.4.2012
Historian at Heart
Trust Foundation Secretary 1989 – 2012
Much Loved Husband of Glenys
Devoted Father & Grandfather