What will the future hold for this unique location on the Manukau Harbour?
Onehunga Wharf is a talking point more than ever this year after having been acquired by Panuku Development Auckland, who has a view to recreate the public space as a hub of economic, shopping and recreational opportunities.
We recently visited Onehunga Wharf and spoke with Brian Hodson, who has been caretaker of Onehunga Wharf since January 2018, initially working for Ports of Auckland, and now for Panuku. He has worked in the shipping industry for well over 40 years, so is in a good position to know how to manage the daily operations, maintenance and health and safety matters.
Onehunga Wharf and the reclaimed land adjacent to it is currently used by several operations as a hub for storage and distribution.
A fleet of fishing vessels operates from the wharf, loading up supplies and returning to empty their catch.
“San Rakaia, San Tongariro and Sante Maria are the largest regular callers,” says Brian, explaining how the crews unload tuna and other fish caught on the west coast, to be taken away for processing and distribution throughout the country and even internationally. He says that a range of smaller boats also cross the notoriously difficult Manukau Harbour bar to reach the productive fishing grounds of New Zealand’s west coast.
Brian has worked with specialists in security and wharf maintenance for several months to upgrade the wharf’s structures, install CCTV, and ensure it’s a safe environment for those working on and around it.
“The wharf is nearly 70 years old and needs a lot of work if it is to remain safe and operational,” he explains. “It’s an important hub for the businesses that are based here, with boats and trucks coming and going constantly.
The wharf, although character filled and pretty in fine weather, is exposed to the Manukau’s prevailing westerly quarter winds.
The largest gust Brian has experienced so far on the wharf was on 8 April when a gust measuring 213kph gust at the Manukau Heads came up the harbour and badly damaged one of the sheds.
Historically the Manukau Harbour has been overlooked when it comes to waterfront improvements, yet there is no doubt that local communities would benefit from its development, whether that includes open space, fishing areas, cafes and restaurants or even a fish market. It is also a strategic and valued area for transport and logistics, and provides access to the Manukau Harbour for marine related purposes both recreational and commercial.
The Manukau Harbour itself was once a hub of ferries, waka and small craft servicing communities all around the Manukau Harbour and linking Auckland to other parts of New Zealand. But it is now nearly devoid of boating activities. Panuku is starting surveying the channels and working with the Auckland Harbourmaster, to assess the navigational qualities of the Manukau Harbour and the wharf’s potential as marine facility - one idea of many possible options considered for parts of the structure.
With many ideas on the table, and no plans to start work in the next few years there is a lot of water to go under the bridge before the potential of this unique space is decided.