Jump Site to Reopen After Remedial Work

18 December 2013

Warning signs will remain in place at the popular jump platform on Wellington’s Taranaki Street wharf for the summer school holidays while ‘baffles’ are installed under the wharf to deal with water contamination concerns.

The platform was closed last February after concerns about the quality of the water in the immediate area.

Wellington Waterfront Ltd Chief Executive Ian Pike says the jump platform became a very popular location for thrillseekers. Since the closure, WWL has been working with the Medical Officer of Health, engineers and the city and regional councils to look at options to fix the situation.

“That area has always been a popular spot for people to jump into the harbour, even before the platform was there. That was why we built it. We had scores of young guys putting their lives at risk as they clambered up onto a building and bridge to get extra height for a decent bomb dive. The jump platform provides a far safer alternative.”

The platform is in the vicinity of a stormwater outlet that drains a catchment stretching to Brooklyn, the Aro Valley and Mt Cook, and some rural land.

“Engineers are searching for a possible contamination source in the catchment,” says Wellington City Council’s Chief Asset Officer, Anthony Wilson. “However considering the problem could be caused by a broken pipe or alternative source anywhere in the 300-hectare area then it is not going to be a quick find-and-fix. There are more than 50 kilometres of public drains in the catchment and an unknown length of private drains. The source of the pollution could be in any of these drains.”

“In the meantime the easiest option would’ve been to shift the platform,” says Ian Pike, “But we believe this wouldn’t have stopped people from again jumping off the wharf and the nearby Free Ambulance building.”

In January Wellington Waterfront will begin work to ‘enclose’ the jump area by installing sheet-plastic baffles under the wharf. This will divert contaminated water from the drain away from the jump platform area. All going well, the work will be finished before the end of February.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Stephen Palmer says he would have preferred that a solution be in place before the start of the school holidays. It is unfortunate that warning signs will remain in place for such a popular bathing location.

Ian Pike agrees – but says that design options and feasibility testing have been dealt with in a painstaking manner – which can’t be rushed.

Anthony Wilson says contamination of old stormwater drains occurs in most well-established cities around the world and Wellington is no exception. The City Council has already spent many millions of dollars in the past two decades to improve water quality in the harbour and around the coast. “The harbour is far cleaner and safer to swim in now than in past decades. We will continue to work on improving the drainage system.”