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Published: 2009-07-29 00:00:00

Environment Waikato staff members have saved ratepayers more than half a million dollars by repairing the council’s barge, the Tamahere, instead of replacing it.

The Tamahere is used for a variety of work in the lower Waikato and Waipa rivers, such as clearing trees and blockages, maintaining flood protection schemes and removing navigation safety hazards.

The barge had been out of action after failing marine inspection last year, when the council was advised its only option was to replace the vessel at an estimated cost of more than $800,000.

However harbour master Kim McKenzie, a qualified mechanical engineer, was convinced there was “life in the old girl yet” and devised a plan to repair it with the help of other Environment Waikato staff.

He hired cranes to turn the barge upside down, had it sandblasted, welded and painted, and fixed some of the steelwork.  He even did some of the work on his own time in his garage in Cambridge.

The total repair bill came to less than $100,000.

“Kim’s the kind of guy who consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty to get the job done and, thanks to his determination and ingenuity, he helped to save ratepayers more than $700,000,” Environment Waikato acting navigation safety manager Shelley Monrad said.

“It was a great team effort by a number of council staff members, who put in significant work to ensure the barge met all the structural and legal requirements to resume safe operations.”

The barge has now been lifted back into the water in the north Waikato area, having gained a marine survey certificate from Maritime New Zealand that will allow it to operate until 2014. 

It has an important role in supporting the maintenance of the lower Waikato River flood protection scheme and river system, and helping with navigation safety work.

It was used for the first time this week to drive piles into the riverbed at Tuakau.