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Wharf barriers anger jumpers

Flagstaff Team

Shut out… (from left to right) Henry (12), Nick, and Aggie (9) Griffiths

A Devonport family of keen wharf-jumpers is frustrated their first leap of the season was thwarted recently by heavy-duty, double gates blocking off Torpedo Bay wharf.

“There were lots of people there – a teenage couple and a couple of guys and we all turned back,” mum Lesley Springall says.

“It was the perfect time – close to high tide and the tide was coming in.”

Springall and husband Nick Griffiths describe the fences as “overkill” and wondered if they were another bureaucratic attempt to stop wharf-jumping.

However, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) says it installed the metal barriers in July to close off the seawall pathway leading to the wharf, due to erosion and cavities in the seawall.

“There are safety concerns with public use of the pathway until the remedial work has been carried out,” a spokesman said in a statement. 

Progress has been slow because it was initially difficult to establish which organisation was responsible for the repairs. NZDF has agreed to fund the repairs on this occasion.

It needed a heritage authority, which had a stand-down period of 15 days, meaning work could not start until after 14 October.

The extent of the erosion also needed to be established before the work, due to be completed by Christmas, could begin.

“NZDF would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused. However, public safety is a priority,” its spokesperson says.

The Defence Force plans to erect a fence along the pathway at the same time, to make access to the wharf safer.

In mid-2018, Auckland Council put signs on the wharf banning jumping, following a pre-schooler drowning near the wharf in 2017.

After an outcry from locals, who claimed wharf-jumping had been a rite of passage for generations of Devonport teenagers, the council backed down

Several years before that, an attempt by the council to ban wharf-jumping at nearby Stanley Bay wharf was also thwarted by local opposition.

This article originally appeared in the November 15 edition of the Devonport Flagstaff. Download PDF.