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Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

The pump station Print E-mail

ImageFor more than a thousand years the residents of Karaka Bay managed quite well without a pump station. If the need arose they could do so again.




The pump station has an interesting history. The City Council told the locals that it could not afford to build them a pump station. The locals said that if that was the case they would do it themselves, and they did. The Council provided the rising main to connect it up to the sewage system.

There was a time when no one in New Zealand assumed that someone else would do everything for them. Instead of reaching for a telephone they reached for a shovel. The sweat and a few beers helped build a strong community. Those people who worked so hard to give us what we have should never be forgotten. They loved Karaka Bay, and you cannot buy love.

Much later the wet well was the result of a protracted court case. Tony Watkins took the Council to court when they sought a water right to discharge sewage into Karaka Bay because with new people moving into the Bay the holding capacity was not adequate. Tony won the case, along with similar cases relating to 189 other pump stations. The result was that all these pump stations were upgraded. The Council may still regard Tamaki Estuary as a sewer for stormwater, but ordinary residents of the area appreciate being able to go to the beach for a swim.

Not one resident offered any support to Tony, and not one resident offered a word of congratulations or thanks either. If some one else was willing to do all the work while they could sit at home watching TV why should they care? The selfish only emerge when they have something to complain about or someone to criticise.

Beyond the technical issues the wet well has social interest. You can see what all the locals flush down their toilets. It can be as amazing as it is interesting. The array of cotton buds, not to mention so much else, do not break down, and they end up bobbing around in the wet well. A treasure trove for the imagination.

Karaka Bay precipitated the whole of Auckland’s current sewage system, but that is a story for another time. When Dove Myer Robinson’s son came down with meningitis after the Council began dumping raw sewage into Karaka Bay he was incensed. His protest grew until he became mayor and the idea of the Manukau Sewerage Scheme was born. The remnants of the former scheme, in which none of the sewage was to be treated, remain as part of the history of Karaka Bay.

Using the pump station as nothing more than an excuse for protecting private property values demeans the wonderful and heroic history of Karaka Bay.

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