Mortar shell possibly from engineering works

Police investigate a building site in the Water of Leith yesterday. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Police investigate a building site in the water of Leith where a WW2 era mortar bomb was discovered on Wednesday afternoon. Photo: Gregor Richardson
A Mortar shell in a Dunedin waterway is likely to have come from an engineering works which operated from from the beginning of the 20th century until the 1970s, and never contained explosives, a man whose father used to work there says.

Police were called to the University of Otago campus about 12.30pm on Wednesday when contractors working on an Otago Regional Council flood protection scheme discovered a mortar shell buried in the Water of Leith. It was found buried about a metre deep beneath a bridge.

Dave Rhodes believed the mortar shell came from engineering firm J & AP Scott, now Scott Technology, where his father worked as an apprentice during World War 2. The shells of water bombs and practice bombs for the military were made at the company’s engineering works, where the university property services building was. From time to time they would dump material over the bank, Mr Rhodes said.

When he heard the mortar had been discovered, Mr Rhodes said he knew immediately what had happened.

"It’s not very sinister if you kind of know the background."

Old mortar shells were also found at a building site on Clyde St in July, but the shells were found to be empty and were deemed scrap metal.

Scott Technology chief financial officer Greg Chiles confirmed the company was based in the area. During the war they had a staff of 120 people, many of them women.

"Missiles were cast here, and turned here, but the explosive was added at another site."

Police cordoned off the area along the Water of Leith on Wednesday night. There was a security presence in the area on Wednesday night and the public were asked to stay away from the area. A police spokeswoman said yesterday NZDF had retrieved the shell, and the area had been cleared. She could not comment on whether the shells were active or not, and an NZDF spokesman said he could not comment on a police-led operation. 

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