Dirty jobs: Nelson's commercial diver sinks deep into a day in an underwater world

MARION VAN DIJK/Stuff.co.nz

Nelson based Diving Services New Zealand dive in a diverse range of places including working in sewerage ponds.

It's the dirtiest job of them all, says Diving Services New Zealand owner Bruce Lines about his trade as a commercial diver.

It's been 16 years since Lines love of the ocean transferred into a commercial business in Nelson and it's been anything but ordinary.

His work combines recreation with engineering, creativity with guts, and search and recovery skills with a strong stomach. But what makes Lines' job so filthy? "We swim in the poos, literally."

Bruce Lines owner and manager of Diving Services New Zealand talks about his "dirty job".
MARION VAN DIJK

Bruce Lines owner and manager of Diving Services New Zealand talks about his "dirty job".

Believe it or not Lines says plugging, fixing and searching for pipes in the local sewer ponds is not the dirty part of the work. It's the paperwork that bogs him down.

"To be honest after a day or two out there [in sewer ponds] you may as well be out on Lake Rotoiti, you just get so used to it."

Lines said a sealed suit and helmet coupled with pure oxygen meant the short straw was given to those working outside the ponds. "All the guys working around you, they're the ones who are exposed to everything."

When his team isn't grappling over who dons the sealed suit, divers visit ports across New Zealand and travel around the world to tackle jobs that haven't been invented yet.

Lines said his favourite destination was in the South Pacific Ocean working on pearl farms.

"I still get a real kick out of it, especially the engineering side," Lions said. "We'll just come up with an idea, build the machinery and it becomes something."

A recent invention cuts time capsules out of the earth in areas like Marlborough Sounds through high-frequency vibrations for scientific research.

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"You can go back thousands of years in history, it's amazing looking at the different layers."

Other work has helped aquaculture farmers streamline their consented growth areas using new techniques for "cutting edge" screw-anchor installation.

Lines said developing equipment and tools was one aspect of the job that kept him interested.

"We have a good understanding of the marine environment ... Anything you can do on land you can do underwater."

Lines has also worked to help control underwater pest species in New Zealand waters, like fan worms. "It's a bit like weed protection in the hills but we're doing the underwater environment."

Lines said everyday on the job was different. He had helped recover planes and trawlers from river mouths and has seen his fair share of weird and wonderful.

"Probably my favourite part would be salvaging and recovering things from the ocean. You kind of get that sense of achievement, I think, when you get something back that shouldn't be there," he said.

"I found my second set of false teeth the other day for the poor old fisherman that had drunk too much the night before."

But Lines main work is in maintenance of ports and commercial vessels.

A normal work week is upward of 70 hours. Lines said in a few more years the plan was to buy a sailing boat and "disappear" into the sunset.

"It's a pretty exciting industry but yeah, the plan is to go and do some adventuring."

 - Stuff

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