Lyttelton Port expansion

Earthquake-battered Lyttelton Port, our third largest and the South Island’s biggest container terminal, is a step closer to major expansion after Environment Canterbury commissioners approved a draft recovery plan. Chris Webb looks at the work so far.

Lyttelton Port currently handles almost 400,000 20-foot container equivalents a year, a figure which its operator, Lyttelton Port Company (LPC), expects to increase four-fold over the next 30 years. To cope with this growing throughput, and in the wake of the 2010/11 earthquakes, LPC wants to expand the eastern end of the port to build two new berths and a long-term container terminal.

Major works are already under way to reclaim 10 hectares of land using demolition waste from buildings irreparably damaged in the earthquakes and repairing port structures. Some 75 percent of Lyttelton’s wharves and other structures were identified in LPC surveys as severely damaged. Last year, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee called for the preparation of a Port Recovery Plan that would speed the necessary consenting and other procedures to ensure Lyttelton can rebuild, keep abreast of demand and maintain its important position at the heart of Canterbury’s vibrant economy.

Environment Canterbury commissioners approved the draft plan in August after an initial public consultation, paving the way for the minister to publish it, invite written comments from the public, and decide whether to rubber stamp it or approve it with or without changes.

Proposals in the draft plan include providing a more streamlined and reliable consenting process for an extra 24 hectares of reclaimed land at Te Awaparahi Bay for a new container terminal, and enabling the redevelopment of Dampier Bay, ensuring better public access to the waterfront, while limiting commercial development there so that it does not compete with Lyttelton town centre.

Some 10 hectares of land is currently being reclaimed. However, the additional reclamation would enable the port to construct a new container terminal and to provide for larger ships. It will be a controlled activity under the Resource Management Act, in which Environment Canterbury must grant the consent, but it can impose conditions, and the consent application will be publicly notified. Other activities associated with the reclamation, including building wharf structures and dredging to create a berth pocket, will also be controlled activities with public notification.

Reclamation at Lyttelton Port
Reclamation at Lyttelton Port

Currently, work at the site continues apace, however. The huge project to rebuild Cashin Quay Two wharf is scheduled to be finished in November, with the storage area behind it for more than 700 containers set for completion early next year. The new wharf marks a significant milestone in LPC’s plan for future growth. Work has involved the demolition of the existing structure and its replacement with a new 230-metre long and 34-metre wide container wharf including associated works.

HEB Construction is the contractor for the $56 million project, which involved the cutting of a dredge batter providing for a wider wharf structure and deeper berth pocket with approximately 45,000 cubic metres of excavated material being undertaken from land and 20,000 cubic metres from barge. The project also involves the placing of 19,000 cubic metres of armour rock.

For the new foundations, works included installation of a total of 42 bents of six piles each (four of 710 metre diameter, two of 610 diameter) driven piles to approximately 60 metres deep. Some 7000 cubic metres of concrete have been poured to form the wharf deck, much of it up to one metre thick, in an operation involving up to 60 trucks a day. The completed structure has been designed to be stronger and more resilient.

At its peak, construction of the wharf employed 180 personnel in what is one of Canterbury’s most significant earthquake rebuilds to date. LPC says it will provide for a second container vessel berth, increase the capacity for the container terminal and allow better operational efficiency.

At nearby Rolleston, construction of the new Inland Port is underway and scheduled to be fully operational with a rail service by early 2016. It is all part of LPC’s 30-year vision to ensure Lyttelton can meet increasing freight demands, with container volumes expected to double in a decade and double again by 2041.

An important part of the long-term plan is to relocate significant port services east onto a vast area of reclamation in Te Awaparahi Bay, intended to allow the re-opening of parts of the inner harbour in the west to the public. Building landward was a restrictive option, leaving seaward reclamation the most attractive alternative. Consequently, marine reclamation into the harbour began just a month after the 2011 earthquake.

To this end, LPC has now reclaimed more than nine hectares of harbour to the east of existing container operations. Completion of the 10 hectares in total, for which LPC has resource consent, is expected early next year. LPC wants to extend the project in the long term to a total of 33.5 hectares that will boost capacity by adding a second container terminal and support the region’s forecast freight increase.

After the earthquakes, initial assessments indicated the city faced the demolition of some 1100 CBD buildings, up to 500 commercial buildings outside the CBD, and perhaps 10,000 or more domestic dwellings. Lyttelton is utilising these ‘clean’ rubble arisings in the reclamation process which LPC chief executive Peter Davie describes as a “win-win” for Christchurch and the port. “Christchurch is able to dump free of charge recycled hard fill from city demolitions at the port’s reclamation, thereby providing free fill to create the additional space needed for its operations.

“This will help ensure LPC can continue to sustainably contribute to the economic well-being of the region as a major cargo hub.

“Space has become particularly important since the earthquakes, with the majority of the wharves damaged. Our focus has been on staying operational while completing temporary repairs and dealing with continued growth in international trade.”

All told, around 4.25 million tonnes of recyclable demolition material is expected from the demolition of buildings. The ‘clean’ concrete and brick rubble is going to the Lyttelton Harbour reclamation project and other sites, as it requires only minor processing. What is left is the mixed demolition material needing major processing to be separated into useful components. The government approved the 10-hectare reclamation at Lyttelton Port at an early stage, giving the city of Christchurch a practical way to deal with some of the estimated 8.5 million tonnes of rubble and other materials.

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