16 Jul 2016

Historic ferry's future still in question

10:25 am on 16 July 2016

A decision on the future of an historic Auckland ferry that unexpectedly sank in the Waitemata Harbour is still two months away.

Historic Auckland Ferry The Kestrel sank at Wynyard Wharf this morning.

The historic Auckland ferry the Kestrel after it sank at Wynyard Wharf. Photo: RNZ / Mohamed Hassan

The Kestrel was docked at Wynyard Wharf when it sank in March after taking on water through a tiny bit of rotten wood just above the water line.

Ferry travellers commuting to the city the morning it sank could only see debris and the top of the iconic wooden vessel, which was launched in 1905.

It had been docked at Wynyard Wharf and members of The Kestrel Preservation Society told RNZ News that hopes of restoring it were all but over.

However, since the ferry was salvaged in April, the society's secretary Hugh Gladwell is a lot more optimistic.

The hull of the Kestrel and two wheel-houses were saved, but its superstructure was ruined in the water.

The Kestrel after it sank in March.

The Kestrel after it sank in March. Photo: The Kestrel Preservation Society

The salvagers thought the hull would break up because the stern was stuck in mud at the bottom of the harbour, but it came out intact with the help of three cranes.

"It's a 110-years-old but still remarkably sound. Built out of three inch kauri and most of it is really as sound as the day it was built. So it would be a great shame if the boat was broken up and couldn't be restored," said Mr Gladwell.

The society still owns the boat which is now being kept at Westhaven Marina.

Parts of the Kestrel pulled from the Waitemata Harbour in April.

Parts of the Kestrel pulled from the Waitemata Harbour in April. Photo: The Kestrel Preservation Society

Restoration of the 270 tonne vessel would be an expensive job but the Kestrel Preservation Society believed it was worth saving this piece of New Zealand history, Mr Gladwell said.

"We're in discussion with a number of parties at the present time. We really can't say anything much about what the discussions are because they're commercially sensitive. But we'd hope to have a decision as to the future of the boat in the next two months."

Mr Gladwell said no organisation existed in New Zealand to support the preservation of large boats so it was up to volunteers to lead the way.

"These things take time. There's going to be a substantial amount of money going to be involved in the restoration of the boat. But it's something we've got to work towards," he said.