The derelict barge that has been a fixture in Hunters Creek for decades, is going to be removed.
The BOP Regional Council’s decision states the cost is not to exceed $400,000, with the work to be funded and undertaken in the next Long Term Plan.
Meanwhile, harbourmaster Peter Buell will move the ski poles to exclude the barge from the water ski area.
The budget for removing the barge is $400,000 which will be included in the 2018/2028 Long Term Plan.
The barge sank in its current position in 1970 or 1971 while it was being towed to a position further up Hunter’s Creek, according to the history related to the regional Council.
It first came to the Bay of Plenty in the late 1960s when Harbour Transport bought it after it was used in the construction of the Auckland Harbour Bridge extension project.
But the barge’s actual history dates to WW II. It was built in the US during the war constructed of riveted steel and concrete.
It was towed to Japan at the end of the war where it was used in the re-build. History doesn’t relate when it arrived in New Zealand.
During Harbour Transport’s ownership the barge was used to move machinery and equipment around Tauranga Harbour and to Matakana Island. It leaked like a sieve, and was patched up multiple times using rapid set concrete.
John McGill, who worked for Harbour Transport during the 1960’s and 1970’s told the regional council that Neill Cropper and Company bought the barge to store explosives in 1970 or 1971, and had a structure made from double concrete block walls and a very heavy explosion proof concrete roof strengthened by pre-stressed steel beams built on top of it.
When they tried to move the barge, the combination of the weight of the new structure and the holes in the hull meant it was too heavy to float. They used large pumps to keep up with the water leaking in and towed it up Hunters Creek, where it sank.
The barge broke its back sometime afterwards. The then Bay of Plenty Harbour Board used the barge for storing detonators during the blasting of the Tanea Shelf.
Since the mid-1980’s there have been a number of assessments of disposal options for the derelict, but they were never followed through, primarily due to cost.
The barge is identified as an “emerging risk” in the regional council’s Key Risk Register. The decision to remove the barge is the only one of the available options that completely eliminates the potential risks to the public and Council’s reputation, says the report.
The regional council is stuck with it. It inherited the problem when it became the successor to the harbour board in 1989 - and there is no clear pathway or evidence to assign responsibility to persons or organisations who had historical involvement with this barge.