Harbourwatch blog

A behind-the-scenes look at the work going on in Lyttelton harbour

Tue 14 Jan

Cruise Berth piling to be completed in March 2020


Piling work for New Zealand’s first purpose-built cruise berth is now on the home stretch, with all piling expected to be completed in March.

LPC Infrastructure Manager Mike Simmers says after the Christmas break, contractors are back on site working to complete the berth, which is on track to be opened by November for the 2020/2021 cruise ship season.

“All main wharf piling was finished before Christmas, and there is about 4-6 days of marine piling to go and a few weeks of land-based piling work to complete. All of this piling will continue intermittently and be completed in March.”

To keep an eye on the weekly piling schedule in 2020, click here. The daily piling schedule can be found on the homepage of Harbourwatch.

Our Marine Mammal Management Plan


At Lyttelton Port, we’re committed to being a responsible part of the Lyttelton Harbour marine environment, which is why we worked with some of New Zealand’s leading experts on our cruise berth Marine Mammal Management Plan (MMMP).

Our Environment and Planning Manager Kim Kelleher says before the project began in late 2018, the team worked with leading scientific experts on from Cawthron Institute, Blue Planet Marine and the Department of Conservation to develop the MMMP.

“The plan focuses on ways to minimise the potential impacts and manage the risks to Hector’s Dolphins, particularly around underwater noise.”

Since then, similar measures have been adopted at a number of other marine construction sites in New Zealand, including the America’s Cup project.

A key part of the MMMP on the cruise berth project has been the use of highly-trained marine mammal observers from Blue Planet Marine to constantly monitor a Marine Mammal Observation Zone. If mammals are seen in this zone, piling shuts down immediately.

The location and extent of the zone is based on Hector’s Dolphins sensitivity to noise, and modelled underwater noise levels caused by piling.  This modelling showed a zone of 450 metres was required for the main wharf piling at the cruise berth.

"We're incredibly proud of raising the bar in New Zealand, for the standard of ensuring marine mammals are protected on construction jobs," says Kim.

There is also a large amount of observation data on Hector’s dolphins that has been collected throughout the project, including extensive underwater acoustic data collected by Styles Group, who have been using underwater devices to monitor the sounds Hector’s dolphin’s make at eight monitoring sites in the harbour since  January 2017. Four sites also monitor the total underwater noise.

“We will be working with those experts to publish the results and findings of our extensive monitoring programme and research, which is really exciting,” says Kim.

Mon 16 Dec

Cruise berth features rock bag engineering

Over 2,000 rock bags holding over 8,000 tonnes of stone are being used in the construction of our cruise berth, the first time this effective engineering solution will be used in New Zealand.

LPC Infrastructure Manager Mike Simmers says over 1,000 rock bags have already been successfully placed underwater to provide scour protection to the seawall slope.

The large cruise vessels that will be calling at Lyttelton have substantial bow thrusters. This means they are extremely manoeuvrable but they place a significant amount of pressure on the seawall slope beneath the cruise berth.

“Initially it was determined we would need to place a significant amount of rock – and extremely large rock – as the outer layer to maintain the stability of the seawall.”

Mike says this would have been very technically challenging and require large rock pieces to be transported by truck to the construction site, which is costly and not an environmentally friendly solution.

“Then our designers recommended using rock bags, which have been used in Japan for over 20 years and in many other parts of the world.

 Rock bags have been used to provide seawall protection in Chiba, Japan, and also after major typhoon events on the Tokyo coastline.

LPC undertook due diligence on the rock bags, including commissioning scale trials at the University of New South Wales, and Mike says all results were extremely positive.

The rock bags are made from 100% recycled polyester (PET). This is very similar material to geotextile fabric, which is used in most construction and infrastructure projects, and accelerated testing confirms they have a 50-year plus lifespan with 100% of strength remaining.

“Overall, the rock bags are an effective solution for this project and can be maintained by our team long term – we’re really pleased with the results.”

A total of 2,058 recycled rock bags filled with 8,232 tonnes of rock are being used to provide scour protection to the seawall beneath the cruise berth. Pictured here are the rock bags in a live trial at LPC.
A total of 2,058 recycled rock bags filled with 8,232 tonnes of rock are being used to provide scour protection to the seawall beneath the cruise berth. Pictured here are the rock bags in a live trial at LPC.
Mon 16 Dec

Cruise Berth update: Main wharf piling complete

The construction of New Zealand’s first purpose-built cruise berth has reached a major milestone, with piling for the main wharf deck now complete.

LPC Engineering Project Manager Paul Kelly says the last three piles for the wharf deck were successfully driven last week.  A total of almost 4 kilometres of piles were driven as part of this section of the project.

A small amount of both marine and land-based piling will continue in early 2020.

All operations on the site, including piling, will shut down after this Friday, December 20. Work will resume on Monday, January 6, 2020.

“In the new year there are 18 shorter piles to be installed on land that will form part of the wharf anchor structures, and we will also be driving two piles for a lines handling platform that will be installed near the Eastern mole,” says Paul.

Construction of the main wharf deck is also progressing well, with five concrete pours out of 12 completed to date.

The cruise berth project remains on track to be completed by November 2020, with over 70 bookings confirmed for this first season.

To keep an eye on the weekly piling schedule in 2020, click here. The daily piling schedule can be found on the homepage of Harbourwatch.

Wed 02 Oct

First concrete pour on Cruise Berth


Excellent progress is being made on New Zealand's first purpose-built cruise berth, with well over half of the main wharf piles now successfully driven, and work has started on the construction of the main wharf deck.

The construction of the main wharf deck involves a number of concrete pours. The first major concrete pour is planned to take place on Thursday, October 10, 2019, and subsequent pours will take place every few weeks until mid-2020. This work will start between 3 am and 5 am to ensure operations run efficiently. 

Noise Impacts:

350 cubic metres of concrete is needed for this first concrete pour, which means concrete trucks will be travelling to Lyttelton.

There may be some noise impact during this time.

If you want to know more detail about the project and how it might affect you, you can either:

· Keep an eye on Harbourwatch, read the existing information, get daily or weekly updates, read the blog or ask us a question

· Sign up to our regular Harbourwatch newsletter (emailed) by emailing questions@lpc.co.nz

Call Jared Pettersson, the Project Environmental Adviser on 03 328 8198.

We appreciate your understanding while we create a world-class Cruise Berth for Lyttelton and Canterbury.  


Thu 15 Aug

Cruise Berth Piles Reach Halfway Point

Progress on LPC’s Cruise Berth has reached another milestone, with over half of the main wharf piles now successfully driven.

LPC’s Engineering Project Manager Paul Kelly says 34 out of a total of 64 main wharf piles have now been driven to full depth at approximately 65m below ground level.

When complete, a total of 3.8 kilometres of main wharf piles will have been used in the project.

Paul says it’s great to reach this point, with the project on track to be complete by November 2020, in time for the 2020/2021 Cruise Ship Season.

“The contractors HEB Construction and designers Beca have done an excellent job, as there is a lot that goes on technically to ensure piles are driven correctly and have the required capacity.”

Paul says there will be a great deal of activity happening onsite from now on.

Piling will continue with a small access bridge being constructed at the mid-span of the wharf to allow servicing of the piling, and the construction of the permanent wharf deck will begin.

Dredging along the berth pocket of the new wharf is also complete, and the current area of focus for the dredging team is the zone between Cashin Quay 4 and the Cruise berth.

The Patiki barge will also be assisting with the placement of geotexxtile fabric underwater, before the slope is covered by rock bags.

“There are a total of 2500 four tonne rock bag units that will be placed on top of the geotextile fabric to hold it in place and provide protection to the dredged slope,”  says Paul.

With all this action onsite, Paul says HEB Construction have done a good job of sequencing and forward planning.

“It is such a compact project in terms of space, HEB has really had to think about space and where plant can fit during all these different activities.”

For daily updates on the Cruise Berth project, click here

Tue 07 May

Eavesdropping on dolphins builds scientific knowledge

Underwater, ears are more useful than eyes. That’s because sound travels through water much better than light, as marine scientist Dr Matt Pine explains.

“Under water, particulate matter and phytoplankton scatter light. On a good day in the Hauraki Gulf, you might get 10m visibility. In busy harbours or estuaries, which Lyttelton is, it’s much less. But sound underwater travels about 4.5 times faster than in air. That’s why ocean mammals have evolved capabilities of generating and perceiving sound.”

Hector’s dolphins are no exception.

 “They can see much further using their acoustic signals than they can using their eyes. They use echolocation to find out where predators and prey are underwater. If they stop clicking, they are effectively blind.”

 This is good news for Styles Group, who have been using underwater devices to eavesdrop on Hector’s dolphin clicks at eight monitoring sites in Lyttelton Harbour since January 2017.

 “It’s unique in its scale - this is the largest monitoring of this kind in the country. Scientifically, it’s great. We can tell when the animals are feeding, or not feeding. We can see seasonal trends, interannual trends and a lot of information we didn’t previously know.”

 Matt says although Hector’s dolphins have been well studied with visual surveys, these can only be done in fine weather and at daytime. “These recorders are there 24/7 in good weather and in bad weather,” Matt says. “We are learning where Hector’s go at night. In the past this has largely been unknown.

 In addition to the CPODs, which record dolphin clicks, there are also autonomous underwater recorders called SoundTraps, or underwater microphones, which are recording all the underwater noise in the inner harbour and the outer harbour.

 These hydrophones pick up all underwater noise - whether it’s caused by piling, dredging, ships, pleasure boats, or even shrimps, wind and rain.

 “The Soundtrap device is in four locations and is measuring the ambient soundscape - or the loudness - at each of these locations as activities occur in inner harbour.”

 Each month, the data from the hydrophones and the CPODs are collected by Vision Environment and processed by Styles Group. This information is supplied to independent marine mammal biologists at Cawthron Institute, who will look at these two data sets together to assess the impacts of port noise on Hector’s dolphins.

A full year of baseline data was collected before dredging or piling started and Styles Group will collect data for another year after it’s completed before the scientists will be able to draw any conclusions.

 What they’ll be hoping for is to understand is the impacts of human activities on Hector’s dolphins.

 “Noise can interfere with the dolphin’s biological signal that they use to find food or avoid dangers. For us, it would be like turning the lights down and then trying to find your marmite sandwich - compared to when all the lights are on. If your marmite sandwich moves, it becomes even harder.”

 The data has potential to answer future questions about the dolphins, too.

 “It’s a great project academically. We’re picking up seasonal trends, how much time is spent in each location, what they’re doing. We are just information gatherers at the moment, but at a later stage, this information could become valuable in other ways.”

 One potential outcome could be nationwide underwater noise standards for Hectors and Maui dolphins.

 “The exciting aspect of this project is the duration and amount of acoustic data that will be generated.  This is now the longest running acoustic study in which a port company is proactively collecting the acoustic data necessary to assess noise effects on one of New Zealand’s marine mammals.”

Styles Group have been using underwater devices to eavesdrop on Hector’s dolphin clicks at eight monitoring sites in Lyttelton Harbour since January 2017.
Styles Group have been using underwater devices to eavesdrop on Hector’s dolphin clicks at eight monitoring sites in Lyttelton Harbour since January 2017.
Tue 07 May

Trained eyes on the Hectors dolphins

Maryjane Waru stands on a container near the construction of the new cruise ship berth with her trained eyes on the sea.

“You’ve got the sea, you’ve got waves, seaweed, birds and everything else, but then something catches your eye. You think you see a bird but it’s moving too fast,” Maryjane says.

Maryjane is a marine mammal observer with Blue Planet Marine. The sudden movements she is watching for are Hector’s dolphins.

Armed with binoculars, a clinometer and five different smartphone apps, Maryjane quickly calculates the distance of the dolphin to the piling work.

As soon as the animals get within 450 metres - the mitigation zone - she stops the piling operation immediately with two words.

“Shut down,” she calls into the radio strapped to her chest. The piling team reacts immediately and can only resume when Maryjane has seen every last dolphin leave the zone, or after 30 minutes of no sightings.

Maryjane (Ngati Rahiri) says her cultural perspective makes the role a natural one.

“I think the role really suits us. It’s a practical role and we come from a different perspective.

"The advantage that we have is our affinity with Tangaroa and the way we’ve been raised to protect our environment. We have to do everything in our power to protect our environment for the next generation and the worse our environment gets, the more important that guardianship role is.”

Having observers on-site is part of the requirements built into the project’s Marine Mammal Management Plan, which was developed with input from the Department of Conservation.

Marine Mammal Observer Maryjane Waru (Ngati Rahiri) became the first Maori observer in 2014. “The advantage that we have is our affinity with Tangaroa and the way we’ve been raised to protect our environment,” she says.
Marine Mammal Observer Maryjane Waru (Ngati Rahiri) became the first Maori observer in 2014. “The advantage that we have is our affinity with Tangaroa and the way we’ve been raised to protect our environment,” she says.
Tue 23 Apr

Cruising into Lyttelton

Progress is well underway for LPC to bring the world’s largest cruise ships to Canterbury through the construction of New Zealand’s first ever custom-built cruise ship facility.

 This video was created for the Seatrade Cruise Global Conference held in Miami last month, the world’s largest gathering for the cruise ship industry.

 In the video Deputy Mayor of Christchurch and local councillor for Lyttelton Andrew Turner says the construction of the cruise berth is an exciting step forward for Canterbury.

 “This really puts Lyttelton and Christchurch on the map.”

 LPC’s chief executive Peter Davie says the new berth means Lyttelton will be able to berth a larger cruise vessel on the new Cruise Berth and still have smaller cruise ships in the inner harbour.

 “We will be able to say yes to all cruise ships.”

 The video also shows 3D graphic imagery of the layout of the cruise berth, including transport options to get passengers into Lyttelton.

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