Building Nelson wharves


Bob Howard started working with the Nelson Harbour Board in 1968 at the start of the log trade. “I was on a 3 month trial and 23 years later I was still there. I worked as a leading hand on the construction of Kingsford Quay and Brunt Quay.”

Kingsford wharfShowing the progress of work on the wharf of Kingsford Quay and the factories, across the water, of Wonder Foods and Nelson Fisheries. Nelson PhotoNews, 104, 1969
Click image to enlarge

Bob recalls how the wharves were constructed:

“To start with, along the shore line iron girders were placed approximately four metres apart and driven down to solid sub strata. Then reinforcing was formed around the girders.  The whole structure was tied together with concreting on top of the slabs and columns. The depth of the area, where the quay was to be built had been dredged by the suction dredge Karatea and the grab dredge Tasman Bay.

Next the pile driver came into operation, and its first task was driving hardwood piles into the seabed. These were then pulled one at a time into straight lines by pull lifts. Boulders were also dropped over the shoreline retaining wall consolidating the wall and bank. The piles were cut to the approved levels and a key was cut into the top of the pile so as the precast concrete beams could slot over them. The deck beam also had holes running longitudinal on each side. They later had high tensile wire, similar to wire rope, put through them. Then a special cement slurry was forced into the holes under pressure and sealed with a concrete cone that tied the different sections of deck beams together. The beams were U shaped so when the deck slabs were placed on the beams, the steel that extruded from the deck slabs would tie in with the reinforcing that was in the hollow of the beam. When all of this was covered with concrete, everything was again tied together. Bolts for bollards and margins were also set in concrete.

Next the pile driver drove piles in the front of the wharf to take the fendering system that consisted of rubber cylinder placed between two hardwood beams. The chafers, which protected the wharf from damage when ships were berthing or tied up, were then fitted to the outside of the wharf."

Kingsford Quay opened for shipping in 1970 and  Brunt Quay opened in 1973.

2014. Updated May 2020

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