SOUTH Port intends to close the west end of Bluff’s aged Town Wharf because of health and safety issues and costly repairs.
South Port chief executive Mark O’Connor said following a five-yearly inspection of the Town Wharf by external engineers, the structural integrity of the nearly 150-year-old berth structures had deteriorated to a point where access needed to be restricted. Work to upgrade the wharf was estimated to cost tens of millions of dollars.
“South Port owns the berth structures and has maintained them over an extended period of time, but they have now reached the end of their useful lives.
“[We have] health and safety obligations relating to these types of assets so restricting access and mothballing the berth is the only sensible action.”
South Port had spent about $600,000 on repair and maintenance work on the west end of the Town Wharf over the past seven years but had only collected $500,000 in revenue from the site, including cargo transfer revenue from bitumen imports, he said.
“Where the revenue is far less than the expenditure, there is only one viable option available to a commercial business. Further significant capital inputs to upgrade the west end of the Town Wharf will only aggravate the situation.
“It would require substantial cargo activity to support the level of capital needed to re-establish the west end of the Town Wharf to an operational standard.”
No changes had been effected yet other than to limit access to the Town Wharf berths to pedestrian use by existing berth-holders, Mr O’Connor said.
The forced closure of the west end of the Town Wharf had triggered a review of total berths available and the need for large capital inputs into the finger pier berthing structure to extend its useful life, he said. Almost $800,000 had been spent on the maintenance of the finger pier asset over the past seven years.
South Port staff had started a consultation process with berth-holders, the parties with whom South Port has a commercial relationship, and a working group would meet with the company to assess all practical solutions, he said.
“Once the make-up of the group was known, an initial meeting would be held to assess the range of options available to potentially accommodate the berthing requirements of all parties,” Mr O’Connor said.
Bluff Community Board chairman Raymond Fife said many people in the Bluff community had expressed concern about the wharf’s closure.
Ideally, he would like it repaired because of its historic value, but accepted it would be costly.
“[The wharf] is owned by South Port but it has always been part of Bluff.
“It will end up being an eyesore [if it is left to deteriorate].”
The board would wait for the outcome from the consultation process between South Port and the working group before deciding whether to pursue the matter, he said.
“We are not sure what its mandate is… We are in limbo until we see what this working group comes up with.”
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