Fate of wharf to be considered

The fate of the historic Sumpter's Wharf at Oamaru Harbour could be determined on Tuesday when the Waitaki District Council decides whether to support its restoration or let it collapse.

The latest engineering report on the conditions of the 92m wooden wharf, built in 1884 for the frozen-meat industry, found it was "reaching tipping point", beyond the stage of a patch-up and partial collapse could be expected.

Within a year, it could reach a point where repair was futile.

Restoration could cost up to $1.5 million.

The entire wharf has deteriorated, with 67% of the piles no longer effective in taking a load, cross bracing in bad condition and failing and capping and deck beams deteriorating.

The wharf is part of the Oamaru Harbour's classification by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as a historic area, is a "heritage asset of considerable note" and linked to the ill-fated Robert Scott Antarctic expedition and his ship the Terra Nova, which moored off Oamaru in 1913 to tell the world the explorer had lost his life.

A report to the council meeting by corporate services manager Carolyn Carter recommends two options - councillors deciding restoration is not a priority and leaving it to the community to promote or the council getting involved to enable the community to obtain funding and assistance to preserve it.

If it is the latter, councillors will be asked to consider what funding and resources it should make available, although no money is in this year's budget.

Mrs Carter said that when restoration was first considered in 2008, after the wharf was closed to the public, it was envisaged volunteers could do some of the work. But the latest report said the project was now more complex, with specialist equipment and expertise needed.

"While volunteer labour and materials recovered from the demolition of other hardwood structures can be used to reduce the cost of the reinstatement, the cost of the piling repair cannot," she said.

Mrs Carter's report did not identify what was feasible for the council to fund. If nothing is done, "partial collapse of the wharf structure can be expected".

Demolishing the structure could cost $400,000, but it could also be left "to sit quietly and rot as a monument to the past without any undue danger to port users".



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