Police divers have helped in the retrieval of vehicle wrecks from the Whanganui River, leaving a stretch of its waters in a healthier state.
New Zealand Police was one of several partners involved in the clean-up efforts, including Horizons Regional Council, Whanganui iwi, Whanganui District Council, and the Department of Conservation.
Whanganui Area Police staff, the Police National Dive Squad and a member of the Auckland Maritime Unit provided underwater search and recovery expertise along with surface safety and support.
Working together, the team were able to lift four disintegrating and mangled chassis from the riverbed.
The week-long operation was preceded by a pōwhiri on Koriniti Marae, close to where the clean-up took place.
“This was an opportunity to be part of a combined effort to build connection with our communities and help support the well-being of the awa by providing police practical know-how,” says Whanganui Police Area Commander Nigel Allan.
“The river is a spiritual and physical entity that is integral to and sustains the well-being of our communities. As police we share a community responsibility to uphold the health and wellbeing of the awa.
“By helping to remove wrecks, we hope we’ve contributed in a small way to the health and wellbeing of the awa and, through this, the health and wellbeing of our communities.
“We have made a collective commitment as an area to build our understanding of Tupua Te Kawa, the values that represent Te Awa Tupua [the legal entity of the river enshrined in the Whanganui River treaty settlement], and to uphold those values – it is a privilege to be able to demonstrate that commitment in a very practical way.
“A big thanks to mana whenua for their ongoing support, our partner agencies and all Police staff involved in this exercise – with a special acknowledgement to Senior Constable Alan Thomson for bringing this all together.”
Divers worked in zero-visibility conditions to locate the vehicles and mark them with buoys. The team then attached cables and chains so the rusty ruins could be hoisted out of the water by crane.
The team used a jet boat and a dinghy on the water, and an ATV to reach the water’s edge.
For PNDS members, the work doubled as an annual exercise to maintain and sharpen their specialist skills, enabling them to be available to deploy any day, at any hour.
“A lot of the time callouts involve grim circumstances. But this was quite a different operation,” says National Operations Support Manager, Inspector Freda Grace.
“It’s a beautiful awa which deserves to be healthy. Being involved both challenged the squad and allowed us all to give back.
“We want to thank the people of Koriniti Marae for their warm welcome, the other agencies for their expertise, and our colleagues in Central District for their support.”