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Birkenhead Coastline Tour

The trip on September 22nd 2001 was very successful with some 150 travellers comprising people from our own society plus those from Onehunga, Devonport, North Shore, and Torbay.

Firstly I need to make one correction, I stated that the large gear wheel at the end of the Beaumont St reclamation was from the old Vehicular Ferry Loading Machinery. It is from a large Wellington harbour dredge, the Whakarire. This dredge had worked in both the Wellington and Napier Harbours and was broken up in Auckland in 1974. Thank you to Jim Callaghan for the correction.

Now that we have viewed this most interesting coast, here are some thoughts on what might have been had past events turned out differently.

Hobsonville is named after Governor Hobson who sailed up there in 1840 looking for a site for a new capital to replace Russell. His ship was the HMS Herald after which Herald Is. is named. Hobson was in favour of this site being that of the nation's first major capital and a sizeable argument ensued. Felton Mathew, who eventually surveyed the town of Auckland, was against the location on grounds of lack of fresh water, no stone suitable for buildings and insufficient harbour channel depth. In the event Hobson became sick, the decision was delayed and eventually Felton Mathew made the choice for Auckland’s present site.

Should the decision have gone the other way there would not have been a Hobsonville airbase, maybe the Harbour Bridge would never have been needed, and There would be a totally different look to the area of today’s Beach Haven and Birkdale.

Sea levels: As we noted the sea levels rose and fell several times in prehistoric times, on one occasion with the sea covering the area of present Takapuna, and Narrow Neck. The hills of Birkenhead would have projected out of the sea looking a bit like islands. Of more significance would have been the open sea beating straight in during a North Easterly storm as Rangitoto did not appear until much, much later.

The erupting volcanoes changed Auckland’s landscape for ever. We saw Meola Reef and noted that it was a lava flow from the Three Kings and that it flowed almost to Kauri Point. If it had reached that far what would the landscape look like now? Would there be a large lake extending back to Riverhead overflowing at peak flood times into the harbour? Would the Waitemata River have cut a new course through say Westmere?

The scheme to cut a canal to the Manukau was seriously considered for many years and only discarded relatively recently. What would our harbour look like with large ships entering and exiting the canal in the vicinity of the Whau Creek?

But enough of the imagine. It was a pleasure to be your tour guide and to have a reason to do the study that lay behind the commentary.

- Brian Potter


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