History of Lyttelton Port of Christchurch
The port and town of Lyttelton lie on the northern shore of Lyttelton harbour, a sea inlet in the north-west of Banks Peninsula, which is the one prominent feature on the coast of Canterbury, New Zealand.
In origin, Banks Peninsula is a volcanic island, built of lava from two craters situated in what are now upper reaches of Lyttelton and Akaroa harbours. Subsequent erosion and other changes at the end of the last Ice Age resulted not only in the drowning of both craters but also in the formation of numerous other sea inlets along the coastline. Erosion of the mountainous country which arose 50 miles to the west produced a very different effect; its rock, brought down in the form of shingle by great rivers, formed a plain which at length reached the hilly shores of the island. Thus, although now joined to a low featureless plain, Banks Peninsula appears very much an island when viewed from the sea.
Lyttelton Harbour, called Te Whaka, or Te Whaka-raupo (the harbour of bullrush reeds) by the Maori and Port Cooper by one of the earliest white visitors, runs westwards for eight miles from between two imposing headlands, and is an almost uniform mile and a quarter in width, until beyond the port it opens into three wide and shallow bays. Maori has lived in and around the area since 800 AD.
Banks Peninsula was first sighted by Europeans on 16 February 1770 from
during James Cook's first voyage to New Zealand. The colonisation of Canterbury began in England in 1848 with the formation of the Canterbury Association. The settlement of Canterbury was planned by the Canterbury Association, so named from the mother diocese of the Church of England because its purpose was to found a specifically Church of England colony. Lyttelton was chosen because of its suitability as a port and because of the availability of a large area of flat land on the other side of the Port Hills, later known as the Canterbury Plains.
An Official Proclamation on 30th August 1849 established Lyttelton as a recognised port, and the first work of harbour engineering was the construction of a 150ft long by 15 ft wide jetty.
The first four ships with the main body of immigrants to the Canterbury settlement arrived soon after. The effect of their coming made an impressive beginning to the new colony.
appeared off the town at 10am on 16 December 1850,
Sir George Seymour
at noon the next day, and
eleven days later.
Dramatic changes followed after the arrival of the new immigrants. Canterbury's first printing press arrived on the
and the first edition of the Lyttelton Times (later the Christchurch Press) was produced in 1851. The Lyttelton gaol was built in 1860. The hard labour gang built most of the roads and stone walls around Lyttelton. They also built Fort Jervois on Ripapa Island and the Quarantine Station on Quail Island. The gaol accepted the worst criminals, debtors and lunatics from all over the South Island. Seven hangings took place there. New Zealand's first telegraph line, between Lyttelton and Christchurch was opening in 1862 and a rail tunnel (the world's first tunnel through volcanic rock) was built in 1867 to provide a better link with Christchurch.
Early Port Management
The Lyttelton Harbour Board was established in 1877 and was responsible for the management of both the commercial and recreational facilities of the harbour. The Board consisted of 13 members elected at the Local Body Elections every three years and representing areas which extended from the Rangitata River in the south to the Conway River in the north.
For many years, while the Settlement of Canterbury grew, Lyttelton remained isolated by the barrier of the Port Hills. The opening of the road tunnel in 1964 provided an easy, direct road link with Christchurch, and brought closer relations between port and city.
Over the years, the port itself has undergone many changes in order to increase its cargo handling capacity and cater for the many and varied needs of shipping. It has seen changes of vessel types, changes in the shape and handling methods of cargo and has had to retain the flexibility to handle them all.
The building of the moles to protect shipping from harbour winds, the reclaiming of land to provide flat cargo handling areas, and, with the advent of containerisation, the establishment of Lyttelton as a container port, were all initiatives which added to the value of the port for its clients.
Harbour Boards continued to administer the port until the introduction of the Port Companies Act in 1988, which separated the commercial role and the non-trading (recreational and safety) roles of the Harbour Board by forming the Lyttelton Port Company. The commercial assets, the land and facilities to operate a commercial port, were transferred from the Harbour Board to the company. The company was charged to manage the port under the Commerce & Companies Act, in the same manner as any other commercial business.
At the same time, the responsibility for managing, maintaining and providing recreational facilities at Lyttelton Harbour was given to Banks Peninsula District Council, and a recreational area set aside on the Naval Point reclamation, near Magazine Bay Marina.
A New Focus
For the new regime of port management to be fully effective, to provide a higher level of service to its customers and to survive the strong competition from other ports, changes were made in areas of waterside labour employment, services and facilities.
In October 1989, the government abolished the Waterfront Industry Commission Act under which the waterside pool of labour was administered. This meant that stevedores (who load-unload ships) were required to employ their own workforce and function under the Labour Relations Act in the same manner as any other employer. There are now four stevedoring companies at the Port of Lyttelton - Lyttelton Port Company Ltd, Pacifica Shipping (1985), Ltd, Lyttelton Stevedores and Toll - all providing a competitive service.
The Lyttelton Harbour Board was abolished in 1989 and its shares in the new port company were allocated to regional and territorial authorities - Ashburton, Banks Peninsula, Hurunui, Selwyn and Waimakariri District Councils and Christchurch City Council.
In 1996 the first moves were made to offer individual members of the public a shareholding in Lyttelton Port Company with the decision by Hurunui and Hurunui District Councils to sell their shareholdings in the company. Waimakariri decided to sell part of its shares. The company listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange in July 1996 with a 19 per cent public listing.
In April 1997, Waimakariri decided to sell the remainder of its shares and Banks Peninsula District Council decided to sell all but a small community holding as well. That effectively raised the level of public shareholding to 25 per cent. This was further increased to about 30 per cent with the decision of Ashburton District Council to sell half of its shares in early May.
Effectively then, Christchurch City Council remains the single largest shareholder with a 65 per cent shareholding, and is also the largest remaining local authority shareholder.
As a direct result of improved efficiencies, business activity at the port of Lyttelton has increased by more than 114% in the last decade and continued growth is predicted.
The port's success is a positive sign for the prosperity of the region as it provides the basis for a huge infrastructure of employment not just in Lyttelton and Christchurch, but all over Canterbury and for the South Island.
Lyttelton is the South Island's major commercial deep water port. It is the hub port for the South Island for the container trade and is ideally located for the distribution of cargoes nationally and internationally. Its strength lies as much in its location as its even mix of import and export cargoes. The port is serviced by many international shipping lines, several of whom call at Lyttelton only in the South Island.
Naturally, Lyttelton Port of Christchurch wants to safeguard Lyttelton's position as the South Island's premier port and it is working hard to keep Lyttelton at the forefront of its industry.
The company sees the key to the future as having the ability to develop and expand to meet the existing and future needs of its customers and all those who rely on a successful port for all or part of their livelihoods. The company is also mindful that consideration will need to be given to environmental and community concerns when any changes are planned and accepts the challenges that are required to be a good corporate citizen.
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