Kaiko¯ura har­bour back in busi­ness

Marlborough Express - - NEWS - PIPPA BROWN

Twelve months ago, marine op­er­a­tors stared in dis­be­lief at the car­nage the earth­quake wrecked on Kaik­oura’s South Bay.

The vi­o­lent 7.8-mag­ni­tude quake, which struck just af­ter mid­night on Novem­ber 14, lifted the seabed in and around the har­bour more than a me­tre.

As Whale Watch boats floun­dered at their moor­ings, tourism op­er­a­tors, com­mer­cial and recre­ational fish­er­men and Coast­guard Kaiko¯ura were left high and dry.

Whale Watch gen­eral man­ager Kauahi Nga­pora said he never thought the coast­line would lift as it did.

‘‘I hoped, be­yond hope the wa­ter level would re­turn - but it never did.’’

Lynette Bu­ur­man, who co-owns En­counter Kaiko¯ura to­gether with Den­nis Bu­ur­man and Ian Brad­shaw, said they thought some­thing was go­ing on with the tides.

‘‘It was such a ma­jor event it took a while for the scale of what hap­pened to be re­alised.’’

In Fe­bru­ary, work started on re­mov­ing the mas­sive amount of ma­te­rial needed to re­store the seabed to pre-quake lev­els.

The Gov­ern­ment ini­tially funded $5 mil­lion for the har­bour re­build, but it soon be­came clear it wasn’t enough, and Whale Watch, En­counter Kaiko¯ura and the Kaiko¯ura District Coun­cil stepped up with the $1m short­fall.

The project was set to take a year, how­ever op­er­a­tors were des­per­ate to get their busi­nesses back up and run­ning.

Coast­guard Kaiko¯ura’s slip­way opened in July, halv­ing the time it took the res­cue boat to re­spond to an emer­gency call-out.

North Can­ter­bury Trans­port In­fra­struc­ture Re­cov­ery (NCTIR) ma­rina re­build project man­ager Stu Haynes said the har­bour re­build had been ‘‘bloody chal­leng­ing’’ to con­struct while try­ing to keep op­er­a­tions open for stake­hold­ers, but they man­aged to de­liver a 15-month con­struc­tion project in nine months.

‘‘In the ideal world you would put a gate across it and tell ev­ery­one to get out, and leave it alone for six months but busi­nesses need to earn rev­enue and keep their busi­ness afloat.

‘‘We re­ar­ranged the pro­gramme around ev­ery­one to suit, and staged it in sec­tions so the dif­fer­ent op­er­a­tors were able to keep run­ning.’’

Nga­pora said the last year had been a pe­riod of sur­vival, adap­tion, chal­lenge and hard work, and it wasn’t over yet.

Busi­ness al­most stopped overnight un­til the In­land Rd opened and a ‘‘trickle’’ of tourists fil­tered in.

It took 49 days for the com­mer- cial whale watch­ing busi­ness to get to sea with one boat, and one tour a day.

Three Whale Watch boats were moved to a safe berth in Welling­ton. Tours could only be car­ried out at high tide, which limited op­er­a­tions dras­ti­cally. Like ev­ery­one else who used the har­bour they had to nav­i­gate new tidal lev­els and build tem­po­rary in­fra­struc­ture un­til ex­ca­va­tions were com­pleted.

Whale Watch had a 60 per cent fall in vis­i­tor num­bers and was op­er­at­ing at only 20 per cent of their ca­pa­bil­ity. Nga­pora ex­pected it would be an­other 18 months

be­fore busi­ness re­turned to pre­quake lev­els, but book­ings were strong, he said.

‘‘To­gether our team have nav­i­gated some very dark mo­ments and we’ve made it to this point, and we will fully re­cover this busi­ness.’’

As the last pieces of the har­bour re­build came to­gether the op­er­a­tors were look­ing for­ward to tourism re­turn­ing.

En­counter Kaiko¯ura own­ers agreed it was an in­cred­i­ble feat to have the project fin­ished in a year.

‘‘I ex­pect a project of this mag­ni­tude, with the plan­ning, con­sent process and im­ple­men­ta­tion would nor­mally take three years,’’ Brad­shaw said.

‘‘Af­ter the earth­quake I couldn’t see the prob­lems be­ing re­solved in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture - it looked al­most like a Her­culean task.

‘‘To do it all in 12 months is an out­stand­ing feat.’’

Kaiko¯ura District Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive An­gela Oosthuizen said it was great to see all the stake­hold­ers come to­gether.

‘‘We are look­ing for­ward to the har­bour be­ing open and tourism re­turn­ing.’’

Den­nis Bu­ur­man said adding a ten­der jetty for vis­it­ing cruise ships was a great fore­sight as it had al­ways been an is­sue not hav­ing some­where for the cruise ship pas­sen­gers to dis­em­bark.

‘‘When we were faced with a sit­u­a­tion of not be­ing able to launch our boats ev­ery­thing came to a grind­ing halt,’’ he said.

‘‘I guess you get over the pain. Now we can look back and all the heartache dis­si­pates when you look at what it is now.’’


The re­built South Bay Ma­rina has a jetty for En­counter Kaiko¯ura boats, a new ten­der jetty for vis­it­ing cruise ships and four berths for Whale Watch boats, as well as an ex­tended boat ramp.

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