'The Shingle Question" and whether or not the Port of Timaru's eastern breakwater would be successful was the subject of considerable discussion in the columns of The Timaru Herald 130 years ago.
Some thought the shingle trapped behind the wall would move around the end and create a bar preventing ships from entering the harbour, others thought nothing would happen. One engineer suggested leaving a gap in the breakwater to allow the shingle to pass through.
What remains 130 years later is a successful port, but also the shingle problem.
The northern drift of shingle along the east coast of South Canterbury has been trapped behind the breakwater to create valuable land, but in times of strong southerly storms great "slugs" of shingle are thrown around the breakwater and into the harbour channel - it means ongoing maintenance dredging for PrimePort Timaru. In the last two years the company has spent $3.4 million on dredging. On average the port company dredges the channel every 10 months.
June 1, 1880
Mr Blackett on the Breakwater
(From Own Corespondent) Wellington, May 31.
The Post tonight has an article on the Timaru Breakwater, based on Mr Blackett's report, declaring the work a complete fiasco, and likely to cost the country hundreds of thousands of pounds by damage to the coast, and recommending that it should be immediately stopped and the structure already built be broken up and removed. Mr Blackett's report is exceedingly damaging to the Breakwater scheme itself, apart from the question of damage to the coast. He says the shingle will come round the end of the Breakwater and fill up the so-called harbour. The report has caused a considerable sensation here.
March 21, 1882
The Timaru Breakwater. To the editor of The Timaru Herald. The enclosed extract from a Napier paper may, perhaps, be of service in showing the inhabitants of our neighbourhood, and also our Harbour Board, what the opinion of disinterested parties is respecting our great marine work, and also of the gentleman through whose planning and supervision it has been carried out so successfully. The enclosed is therefore at your service. I am, etc Resident
Mr Goodall was known to have boldly planned and is carrying out a harbour scheme at Timaru in the face of every obstacle that has been placed in his way. He has defied the opinions of those of his brother engineers who predicted the triumph of the shingle and the failure of the harbour, and for three years he has been steadily pursuing his plans in the face of the opposition brought to bear upon his work. What is the result. He has built out from a straight line of shingle beach - a beach fed by travelling shingle brought down by infinitely larger rivers than we have in Hawke's Bay a solidly constructed concrete Breakwater running, at this moment, one thousand feet into the open ocean. Lying alongside this Breakwater, and securely moored to the wooden quay that forms a portion of the work, were, at the time of our visit, a good-sized barque, the Union Company's steamer Waitaki of 420 tons, and a topsail schooner. Within the shelter of the Breakwater were anchored a barque, a couple of schooners, and a fleet of cargo and smaller boats. And now for the travelling shingle. When the Breakwater was first commenced the shingle followed up the work for about 200 feet; it then stopped through the action of the waves, which, striking the Breakwater at an angle, and running along the concrete walls shoreward, caused an eddy, and swept the shingle back as fast as it accumulated. It is a fact that the beach has not made for the last twelve months, nor is it in the least likely to do so. The Timaru Breakwater is, next to the Lyttelton tunnel, the boldest work that has been undertaken in New Zealand, and it testifies at once to the ability of Mr Goodall and to the enterprise of the people of Timaru.
On another occasion we shall lay before our readers a few facts and figures showing the benefit that Timaru has already derived from its Breakwater, unfinished as it is, and the effect a rising harbour there has had upon the export shipments of the Port of Lyttelton, from which may be gathered the reason of the bitter hostility shown towards Mr Goodall and his grand work.
Nov 7, 1883
Port of Timaru, New Zealand.
To the editor of the Journal of Commerce Sir, - lt may be reassuring for owners who think of chartering to or from Timaru to know my recent experience of the port. "The Norman Macleod, 834 tons, discharged and loaded full cargoes in July last, and sailed again on her return voyage in 21 days of her entering the port, taking on board the whole of her homeward cargo, 1240 tons, under the Breakwater.
"The Lurline, 761 tons, sailed for London on the 2nd ultimo, completing the discharge and loading of full cargoes in 15 days from the time of dropping anchor.
She discharged and loaded altogether under the Breakwater. Since the extension of the Breakwater and further completion of the harbour works, the due safety of ships seems assured and it is evident that the facilities for giving rapid despatch are exceptionally favourable." I am,
J J Glasgow, November 17th, 1833."
- The Timaru Herald