NORTH SHORE HISTORY with David Verran
Lake Pupuke’s Drinking Water
Until 1894 drinking water in the Devonport and Takapuna area only came from wells, local springs and even rainwater from downpipes. Elsewhere in Auckland, residents could access freshwater from Western Springs or the springs in the Onehunga area. However, the supply from local North Shore wells was becoming increasingly limited and especially so in the summer months. The lack of freshwater also discouraged potential residents from buying property and settling, particularly in the Devonport area.
In 1884, Joseph Glenny proposed connecting Devonport with the freshwater Lake Pupuke, and in March 1887 land was purchased in the Hurstmere Road area for a waterworks. However, this proposal was then deferred at a meeting of the Devonport Borough Council because of cost. In February 1888 the proposal was again deferred, but raised again in November 1891. It wasn’t until January 1892 that there was public acceptance of the need to raise a loan of 15,000 pounds (around $2.8 million today) to provide drinking water for Devonport Borough, in large part because of the persistence of the Mayor at the time, Ewen William Alison. He convinced the Council and then convinced the ratepayers at a public meeting, and an April 1892 public poll favoured the proposal.
The loan was floated locally in June 1893, in 100 Pound (around $19,000 today) debentures and offering 5.5% interest. Financial institutions at the time wouldn’t offer the money at anything less than 6%. The waterworks loan was in fact oversubscribed. T. and S. Morrin and Co. contracted to supply the pipes, from Glasgow, while Chambers and Son sourced the pumps and boilers, again from the United Kingdom. Cole and Moody then received the contract for construction and completed that in just ten months.
Around 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometres) of 8 inch (20.32 centimetre) diameter main pipes were laid from Lake Pupuke to a subterranean reservoir on top of Mount Victoria, the hilltop land being made available by the Defence Department. That reservoir was then linked to customers in Devonport Borough via another 8.5 miles (13.68 kilometres) of service pipe. Another .75 of a mile (1.2 kilometres) of service pipe was also laid to benefit Takapuna residents who opted to link up to the freshwater supply. Initially, Takapuna residents had threatened legal proceedings to stop Devonport Borough from taking their water.
The new Devonport water supply opened with great flourish on 11 August 1894, with the local fire brigade making full use of the plentiful supply of water. The Northcote area had its own pumping station from 1906 and Birkenhead from 1913, both on the western side of the Lake. A new waterworks building (the structure still remains) was opened on 7 March 1906 by the Devonport Borough Council and in December 1913 a Lake Takapuna Board of Control was created to control Lake Pupuke and its use as a water supply.
The water was chlorinated from 1927, but there were increasing concerns over the quality and taste of Lake Pupuke’s drinking water, with the water levels dipping particularly low in summer. In 1934 a new water treatment station was built by Devonport Borough, but the three Boroughs of Takapuna, Devonport and Northcote couldn’t agree on alternative water sources. Finally, as a public health measure, in December 1940 Devonport Borough was forced to purchase water from the Auckland City Council’s water supply from the Waitakere Ranges and on 10 October 1942 a direct supply from the Waitakere Ranges was connected for Devonport residents. Birkenhead Borough had already linked into Auckland City water back in January 1934. Lake Pupuke remained as a back-up water supply until 1959, when it reverted to being purely recreational in purpose.
- By David Verran