Hauling vehicles out of the Waikato

By Tumamao Harawira

Efforts to restore the health of the Waikato River now include removing rubbish dumped in the country's longest waterway. A team from Deep Dive Division and the Waikato River Authority have so far removed a range of objects including six vehicles.

Deep Dive Division is Aotearoa’s leading commercial and scientific dive company. It specialises in underwater construction, environmental solutions, infrastructure inspections, and aquaculture. It is run by a husband-wife duo committed to environmental protection.

Pauli Moto'otua Karalus says he first came across a number of vehicles submerged under the water.

"One day we came across a couple of vehicles on our boat scanner and so I dived down and found these two vehicles in Ngāruawāhia of all places."

Much like the regions, the Waikato River is now in recovery mode.

No one cared

"We alerted authorities but we weren't getting much traction there. We went to the next lot of authorities and still, it wasn't a navigational hazard or deemed to be leaking any toxins."

It wasn't until they reached out to Waikato-Tainui that things began to change.

"It took three years basically to get this over the line and, with the help of Waikato-Tainui, they gave us some funding to actually scan and create a report and get some momentum to get funding from the Waikato River Authority."

Last week they began their mammoth journey to remove the vehicles from the river, calling in help from experts like Mcleods Cranes, which meant Karalus could bring in a 230-tonne (lifting capacity) crane to remove the vehicles.

Wife Courtney, who manages the on-land aspects of the business, and has whakapapa to Waikato, says Deep Dive Division is unique in the way it goes about its operation.

Five key swimming spots

"We integrate commercial diving with science and mātauranga Māori. We are trailblazers in that respect. I see now more than ever the relevance of integrating modern approaches with traditional thinking."

The Waikato River Authority funded the salvage at five key swimming spots along the awa based on findings from scanning and survey dives.

"The project is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what needs to be salvaged but it's a great start and we look forward to extending this salvage from Taupo to Port Waikato and all the tributaries along the way."

At the Hamilton Gardens site it took three days to salvage the cars and two days to prep the site.