• September 26, 2023

Up 300,000 tonnes of marine sediment to be trucked away as marina development ramps up

Unloading the 68th barge-load of Whangārei Harbour dredgings at Kissing Point for truckies to shift onto land. Photo / Susan Botting

Crossing Whangārei’s Riverside Drive in a 20-tonne truck requires the eyes of a hawk and the quick-turning head of a hunting kingfisher.

That’s according to Whangārei’s Murray Smith, who reckons he has crossed the busy arterial route at Kissing Point more than 46,000 times in the past 17 years, as he and his team shift harbour dredgings from ship to shore.

The route into Whangārei, from the east and the city’s airport, is increasingly busy. Up to 20,000 vehicles travel the route daily, where Smith and his team have to cross the road about 80 times a day.

The Whangārei Harbour marine mud movers at Kissing Point - from left Keith Hoffman, Murray Smith, William Morrow and Allan Ross. Photo / Susan Botting
The Whangārei Harbour marine mud movers at Kissing Point – from left Keith Hoffman, Murray Smith, William Morrow and Allan Ross. Photo / Susan Botting

The workers started their latest job moving dredgings from the new $20 million Ōkara marina site, about half a kilometre upstream to Te Matau a Pohe lift bridge, on August 22.

They’ve so far completed 1200 return truck journeys, carrying 1200 tonnes of marina dredgings from the harbour’s edge at Kissing Point to Whangārei District Council’s Bell Block reclamation site across the road.

Up to 300,000 tonnes of the heavy thick, dark grey marine sediment will be trucked across the road in the next year ahead of developer Whangārei Marina Trust’s expected construction start in 2024.

Mangrove stumps from the marina site will also be among the dredgings. These are the remnants of the equivalent of just under 1.5 rugby fields of mature mangrove forest chopped down and helicoptered away to be chipped, to make way for the new marina.

Smith, who is from Three Mile Bush, said patience was the key to crossing the busy road in the big trucks, carrying 10 tonnes of Whangārei Harbour marine mud at a time.


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Bikers and parents with pushchairs are among those factored in to crossing calculations, along with oncoming 80km/h vehicles from both directions.

“You need a head like a kingfisher,” Smith said of choosing just the right moment to cross.

“You can’t rush across the road, you’ve got to take your time.”

Murray Smith has to be alert every time he crosses the busy Riverside Drive. Photo / Susan Botting
Murray Smith has to be alert every time he crosses the busy Riverside Drive. Photo / Susan Botting

These days, the 17-year veteran of Kissing Point truck crossing does the half kilometre trip from water’s edge mud bin to the dump only as a reserve if needed. Smith, who has worked in civil construction for 45 years, is the new vice-chairman of the Institute of Quarrying’s Northland branch, after being its chairman for a decade.

His longtime driver Keith Hoffman has also worked the Riverside Drive crossing for a while, traversing the road 28,000 times each way in 11 years.

“In 17 years doing this, we’ve never had an accident,” Smith said.

There will be about 23,300 truck trips from Kissing Point to Bell Block with the roughly year-long Ōkara marina dredging. About 300,000 tonnes of seafloor dredgings will be trucked across the road.

Truck driver Keith Hoffman. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Truck driver Keith Hoffman. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Two trucks, operating between 9am and 4pm to avoid rush-hour traffic, each make 40 return trips to Bell Block daily. The marina site’s gloopy marine mud is continuously being barged from the marina dredging site.

The dredgings go into the 1200-tonne shoreside mud bin where they pause between land and sea.

From there, Smith’s onshore digger driver Allan Ross shifts them into the trucks, about 10 tonnes at a time. He has shifted an estimated 200,000 tonnes of Whangārei Harbour dredgings in this way over 10 years on the job.


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Surprises among the dredgings have included cellphones, cordless drills, rope, dive gear, supermarket trolleys, road cones, plastic chairs and least one pair of sunglasses.

An extra truck has been brought into the mix for the new marina job that dwarfs its previous biggest upper harbour cousins. These included Whangārei Marina Trust’s Town Basin and Northland Regional Council Hātea River channel maintenance, and the the council’s Hātea Loop construction.

The marina dredgings’ heavy gloopy marine mud is trucked to its designated Bell Block tip head, where it slips out of tilted truck tray, with deposits building up over several days.

“Then it reaches a point where the pile of marine mud at the tip head collapses and oozes away like a lahar,” Smith said.

That flowing effect is exactly what Smith is after, ensuring the dredging dump site fills as efficiently as possible.

The lahar might move slowly but Riverside Drive traffic does not.


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However, Smith said drivers are courteous and the trucking team appreciates that.

“Thanks to all the drivers on the road, from places like Whangārei Heads, Pataua and Onerahi.”

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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