Newspaper Article 1926 – Inner Harbour


What W. Nelson Makes of It

Endorsed By Inner Harbour League

Please Read – You Will then Vote for Supporters of Inner Harbour

Having in view the Harbour Board election coming on shortly, I feel it my duty as a resident of 63 years in Hawke’s Bay with a keen interest in the future welfare of the district, to put before the ratepayers the “true” position of “affairs” affecting our harbour.

In September, 1924, a Government engineer was sent to Napier, as I and most other people thought, to report on the best harbour to permanently meet our requirements, but much to my astonishment he reported solely on the Breakwater, dismissing the Inner Harbour because “reclamation” was mixed up with it, and that “harbours and reclamation had nothing to do with one another”. (I shall prove that “reclamation” has everything to do with it), but at the same time indulged in much hostile criticisms of the Inner Harbour proposal, without a single word in its favour!  His chief point really affecting the question is that the “entrance cannot be kept open”.  Now this statement is utterly at variance with the experience gained from the Whakariri dredging done some years ago.  This dredged track shows several heaps of river silt with intervening spaces practically as the Whakariri left it.  The engineer says that sand drift will continually fill up the entrance.  Now I think everybody except a civil engineer will see that if the current supposed to exist is strong enough to shift sand from somewhere into the entrance it surely must be strong enough to level the heaps of river silt – but it doesn’t, neither does it fill up the intervening spaces referred to above.  Other engineers say unhesitatingly that the “entrance” presents no difficulty whatever.

The Government engineer says Napier does not want this reclamation; it is not sufficiently advanced to warrant the expenditure.
(A leading Napier paper seems to agree with this view).  Another Government engineer, Mr. Campbell, who has recently reported on “Reclamation”, says “Napier wants land and must have it.”  Which is right?  I back Campbell!!  He is evidently perplexed where to get his spoil from and proposes dredging 40 feet deep and an 80-acre lake somewhere.  Now the Lord has placed the Inner Harbour site just in the middle of the various areas requiring reclamation, and all to be done is: Pump it out and get a harbour for nothing.  But – it is proposed to leave it alone, because an engineer says harbours and reclamation have nothing to do with one another!!!

Cullen and Keele’s estimate for Breakwater extension to berth four ocean boats is £611,059.  Their estimate to berth two ocean boats is £487,236.  The Harbour Board have adopted the smaller scheme with one pier 550 feet long, giving berthage for two ocean boats, leaving the Glasgow Wharf as at present for coastal boats which we know fully occupy all available space (except when they have to run away to the Inner Harbour for safety).  Yet in the face of Cullen and Keele’s plan and estimate, the Board, backed up by Napier papers, says “the smaller estimate is for four ocean boats”!!  What are we to say to this?  Are we to call it “childish” or “a wilfully unscrupulous distortion of facts”?  Where are the coastal boats to berth if the whole berthage is taken up by four ocean boats?  Cullen and Keele’s estimate for the Inner Harbour to provide berthage for four ocean boats, is £608,160 and gives 2600 feet berthage against one 550-foot pier for £487,236 at the Breakwater.  But they give no Inner Harbour estimate for berthing only two ocean boats, but as the estimates for both Breakwater and Inner Harbour are practically the same for four ocean boats, presumably it would be the same for two, viz., £487,236, thus as I shall show further on we shall have a harbour in three or four years for nothing and £128,764 to the good in 21 years.

The proposed Inner Harbour has 400 acres already enclosed and absolutely protected from the prevailing seas by Napier hills.  The Breakwater proposal is for 100 acres yet to be enclosed and exposed to every sea.

In above estimate of cost of the Inner Harbour to berth four ocean boats, no reference is made to the value of reclamation, which can’t help coming into existence when dredging the harbour and amounting to 500 acres from which 60 acres must be deducted for roads, leaving 440 acres for sale.  The value of this “automatic reclamation” is £308,000 the day it is finished, and judging by the way Napier South has been occupied, it will be all disposed of in ten years, then ten years after that (again judging by Napier South) it will be doubled in value, making £616,000, being considerably more than the total cost of the harbour, the Harbour Board being in a position to take advantage of this increase in value, as they let all their land under the “Glasgow Lease” system, which provides for re-valuation every 21 years.

I arrive at above valuation as follows:  Ten years after completion of Napier South it was practically all sold at an average of about £600 per acre; to-day it is selling at over £1500 per acre.  Now everybody knows how badly Napier wants land – thus:  Why should not proposed reclamation, as shown on accompanying plan, be worth as much as Napier South originally realised?  And why should it not increase in value in ten years as Napier South has done?  Above valuation of £308,000 is based on an initial value of £700 per acre instead of £600 as realised by Napier South, because a considerable area on the harbour front will be worth anything from £3000 to £6000 per acre, this being a valuable asset which Napier South has not.

Cullen and Keele’s recommendation to complete the Breakwater is the trump card of the Breakwater Party, who say Cullen and Keele have “changed their mind”.  Well, – they have not “changed their mind”; there is not a word in their report indicating any change of mind as to which would be the better harbour.  They were asked a direct question and their answer was given subject to further information regarding the result of borings, and I am prepared to say that the report on the “borings” misled them.  As I read the boring report it proves that there is nothing hard in or near the Breakwater.  Everything is soft and lovely. The gentleman who “reported” (who by the way objected to the Harbour Board having a representative on board) must think we are a pretty soft lot. I quite expect to see the Auckland rock will shortly be discovered to be made of cream cheese!!!  It fell to my lot to be on the steamer Auckland in 1866 when she “discovered” that rock and it struck me as being fairly hard and we may be sure it had some neighbours nearby equally hard!

Cullen and Keele have evidently no conception of the value of the reclamation that will result from dredging the Inner Harbour.  They say “the land reclaimed will have some value but we have no means of estimating its value”.  Had the Harbour Board supplied Messrs Cullen and Keele with an estimate of the value of each acre of reclamation, their approval of the Breakwater extension would never have been given, the boring fiasco notwithstanding.

Don’t forget that Cullen and Keele, who are accepted as an authority when favouring the Breakwater, also say there is no difficulty whatever in forming and keeping open the entrance to the Inner Harbour.

I have been recently asked whether the Inner Harbour would not fill up with silt as soon as it was dredged?  As the Tutaekuri river will shortly be diverted to Waitangi and it is the only source of silt supply, there will be no “silt” to fill it up.

Just study plan attached showing reclamations lined black and draw a picture in your mind’s eye’s of (1) Port Ahuriri with a 20-acre park and playground in the place of one of the ponds and building sites round about it with good gardens; (2) a harbour front of 5000 feet with any amount of land behind it for railway yards and warehouses with the big ships lying right in front of them; (3) a strip of land 15 to 20 chains wide along the whole line of Hyderabad road and linking up with Napier South and Westshore.  Take another good look at the plan and compare the entirely sheltered Inner Harbour with the shockingly exposed Breakwater!!  Another point that must be kept in mind is the tendency for bigger ships; 26 feet was enough 40 years ago – to-day 30 feet – to-morrow 36 feet.  The Inner Harbour provides unlimited depth and costing less than nothing, as reclamation resulting from dredging will always, more than pay the cost.

I could give a dozen other good reasons for adopting the Inner Harbour, but don’t want to make my tale too long.  No doubt there will be some criticisms on what I have written, but that doesn’t matter.  It is all true and that is more than can be said about many things you are told about the Breakwater site.  Just use your own judgment, [judgement] and


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Format of the original

Newspaper article

Date published

24 April 1926


  • Captain Anderson
  • ? Cullen
  • J E Jones
  • A E Jull
  • ? Keele
  • J J Langridge
  • Oswald Nelson
  • W Nelson

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