Diamond Harbour was inaugurated as a suburb of Lyttelton by the purchase of 140 hectares from the Stoddart Estate by the Lyttelton Borough Council in 1913. By 1926 the village had grown to 38 houses mostly owned by professional folk who commuted to work via the steam launch to Lyttelton and the train to Christchurch. The further development of this lovely and rather sunny aspect of Whakaraupō was, however, slowed by a lack of secure water supplies. And it was this lack that led to the setting up of the Diamond Harbour Burgesses Association in 1931 which embarked on their various fruitless campaigns in the 1930s-40s to obtain water security for the growing settlement.
A half century beforehand, Lyttelton itself had also experienced water shortages until the Lyttelton Waterworks Act of 1878 allowed the Lyttelton Borough Council to pipe water through the rail tunnel from the Heathcote Reservoir. While this water was rather hard, with high chlorine levels due to sea water incursion, it was nevertheless drinkable and certainly allowed for an expansion of town building activity in the port. And it was this precious resource that would also lead to the relief of Diamond Harbour … after some decades and no small degree of persuasion!
By the 1950s the water problem in Diamond Harbour had grown so acute that the village Burgesses threatened to secede from the Lyttelton Borough Council and join the Mount Herbert County for their respite. Finally spurred into action, the Lyttelton Councillors approved the construction of an undersea pipeline that was laid in 1954 from Lyttelton across the harbour to Payne's Quarry and a reservoir above the village, fed by gravity from the Lyttelton reservoirs.
The works were carried out by the Borough Councils’ own staff with the launches shown in the first photograph used as towboats, the “Reomoana” piloted by Bill Grennell closest, and "Ngatoa Nui” piloted by Len Anderson in the distance. The pipeline was suspended from pairs of empty oil drums with the whole being launched from the assembly place along the mudflats road to the south-west edge of the Tank Farm and towed into position by the launch “Ngatoa nui” (seen in the background of the second photograph). With a flood tide, the whole length of pipeline was rested against the line of piles until allowed to sink as one unit. Thus it came to be, that the Diamond Harbour Water Mains was opened to the public on April 2nd of 1955.
While damaged in the 1960 tsunami when a Chilean earthquake caused water levels in the harbour to fall and surge by 5 metres, the pipeline continued to supply fine Port Hills bore water for several decades until being replaced in the late 1990s. And with it, the village of Te Waipapa Diamond Harbour has grown from 220 houses in 1962, into the fine suburban settlement of 1600 good people that we know and love today.
Many thanks for the details on the pipeline works go to Euan Crawford who was present as a ‘boy’ on the “Ngatoa Nui”.