A retired Napier firefighter who rescued a baby a man had tried to throw off the side of the Bluff Hill lookout has praised the decision to build a new 1.6m fence at the site.
Despite a backlash by some neighbours against the newly built 400m fence on Lighthouse Rd, Paddy Mulholland has backed Napier City Council's work.
The fence at the iconic lookout has been completed, with a project budget of $165,000, while an adjacent replacement footpath is expected to be finished by early March.
Mulholland, 85, said he was working for Napier Fire Brigade in 1976 when they received a call to Bluff Hill.
A man up at the lookout had thrown his baby off the cliff, the baby landing a few metres down, before he jumped after it.
"At the time there was no fence – nothing," Mulholland said.
"I climbed down there with no ropes or anything. I saw the man and he was sitting with the baby in his arms. He didn't know I was there. He was sat looking out across to Mahia.
"I didn't know how to tackle it."
Mulholland said he knew he had to get the baby so he grabbed it from the man and then spun around and climbed away from him.
An article about the incident, with a photo of him holding the baby, appeared in the Daily Telegraph the following day.
A Napier City Council spokeswoman said "public safety" was at the forefront of the decision to build the new fence, after the old fence and footpath were "no longer safe".
"It was checked after a member of the public informed us they had leaned on the fence and it moved, and we found some of the joints on the old fence were rusted through," she said.
"About the same time council was also approached by people who had lost friends and family to suicide, asking that we consider doing something about the fence."
The new fence, which complies with the Building Act, will be accessible via a new footpath that is due to be installed later this year.
Mulholland, who moved to New Zealand from Northern Ireland at the age of 21, praised those who made the decision to install the new fence.
"My opinion on the fence is that it should have been put up 60, 70 years ago," he said.
"We've got part of Cape Kidnappers closed down and those people were lucky not to be killed.
"If Bluff Hill goes down with people up there looking around the place, there is no way you're living.
"People are complaining about the fence. But what is more important at the end of the day ... "
The retired Hawke's Bay firefighter, who described the past incident as the "greatest experience of my life", said the Daily Telegraph kept him updated on how the baby was getting on in recovery.
Mulholland, now living in Dannevirke, even turned down a chance to meet the baby years later after a chance encounter with a relative.
"My granddaughter was at university in Dunedin and became a doctor," he said. "She had to go to Wellington for work and a male patient once asked where she originally came from.
"She said Napier and he said he was born there too. Then he said he was thrown over Bluff Hill as a child.
"People have asked whether I would like to meet him, but I'd hate that as it could interfere with his life."
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