I call the old Reservoir pump my baby. I am the babysitter. You can do some damage if you don’t work it right, that’s why you have to nurse it like a baby. I’ve been cuddling it for 49 years now.
This pump was commissioned in 1936. I moved to Kerepēhi in 1974. The old guy that lived next door to me actually constructed the pump station building and, well, I wished I had listened to him a bit more but I was young then … The old guy, he was in his 80s then, he told me the macrocarpa piles were driven in with a steam hammer. They did a hand concrete pour, 18 inches, right through the night, with wheelbarrows, six of them. When we do structural audits they cannot find anything wrong with it.
It’s been a really reliable pump. A pump before its time. Eighty-two years old and we’ve never had any issues with it. You will never see anything like this. It’s the only one of its kind in New Zealand. Staff from all the councils in New Zealand have been here and they have never seen anything like it. Touch wood, it has never let us down. It just hums and hums. It’s got to be manually started and turned off. I have been here to midnight, two in the morning, pumping.
To get it going, it has to be primed, which takes about five, six, seven minutes. There’s still the original gauge. There is still the original toolkit. Original switchboard. You have to manually put it through six speeds – there’s a gear box – and then you move this lever from start to run. It goes off like a geyser. It pumps 1700 litres of water a second … that’s a lot.
The pump is only a pump in anger. If we really need it. She’s worth her weight in gold. I’ve started her well over 100 times. A second pump was put in 1962. Same capacity, it starts by itself with an automatic probe system. So it does the work but when it struggles we start up my baby.
The Reservoir Canal is 5km long. It takes the water from the side drains and acts as a storage. It takes a hell of a lot of water from this area. When it gets too full for the floodgates to cope, the pumps move the water through the road into the Awaiti Canal.
If it wasn’t for the pumps and floodgates of the Piako scheme, the farming on the Hauraki Plains would be quite different. The old guy, when I first came here, he told me cows were in water up to their knees and udders.
The old Reservoir pump has been going strong for 82 years without any issues.
"It goes off like a geyser. It pumps 1700 litres of water a second … that’s a lot."
Even the original toolset is still in the Reservoir pump house.