Nibbler makes short work of tower

The view is changing as the water tower disappears
The view is changing as the water tower disappears

Sixty-five tonnes of machine started nibbling away at Blenheim's water tower at Wairau Hospital on Friday.

The long-reach excavator with concrete mulcher was brought in especially from Christchurch to level the 1940s concrete structure, which was deemed in 2003 to be an earthquake risk.

The machine made short work of the 17-metre steel-reinforced tower, reducing it to rubble in two days.

Water Tower at Wairau Hospital being demolished by Simcox Construction
Water Tower at Wairau Hospital being demolished by Simcox Construction

The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board contracted Blenheim firm Simcox Construction to demolish the tower.

Managing director Ian Simcox said the demolition took 15 hours all up, and the tower went down without a hitch. But the going was slow on Friday morning as they tackled the "bowl" structure on top of the concrete pillar.

"At the start we were getting a feel and understanding of what was going on," he said. "Then we just started nibbling away."

The construction company took extra precaution not to damage the pump house and reservoir below the tower, which store the hospital's emergency water supply, Mr Simcox said.

"We had to take extreme care," he said. "It's the sort of thing that, if you were in a panic, you could drop it like a tree but there were too many buildings around to damage."

Mr Simcox climbed the ladder inside the concrete pillar on Friday morning.

"I looked down and decided I didn't need to be up there."

The crane's mulcher-like head could also cut through the steel mesh inside the concrete.

"It's the safest way because nobody has to get close."

Wairau Hospital carpenter Chris Lammas described the demolition as the end of an era.

"It's depressing as far as I'm concerned," he said. "Definitely a landmark gone."

Site electrician Dave Rodger said Mr Lammas was too sentimental.

"If it came down in an earthquake it would have taken out the pump house and reservoir."

Water used to constantly drip from the tower when he started work at the hospital in 1998, he said.

Another maintenance worker, Keith Francis, said the tower was an eyesore.

A caller to The Marlborough Express said the tower was designed by Blenheim architect Harvey Clarkson.

The Marlborough Express