River Boats NZ

1904 SS/MV Waiora

Design And Durability

The SS/MV Waiora was built in 1904 at the same time as the SS/MV Wairua by London-based Yarrow & Co (now Yarrow Shipbuilders Limited). 

It was originally designed and built to be a screw steamer and was then used to move merchandise across minor ports. However, it was later modified to become a motor vessel. The term, “Waiora” is a Māori word for wellness or health, and that is what the vessel actually signifies.

Over time, the uses to which the Waiora was put declined. The boat became less active – and experienced long periods of fallow. This lack of use made the authorities take it out of service in 1937. It was deposited at the Hattricks Slipway.

At the Hattricks Slipway, the boat still lay largely idle. Thus, the deterioration only continued unabated. The body of the boat rusted; as a result, there was a natural dismemberment of the parts of the boat.

As time went by, the boat was cut in half. Eventually, its stern was dumped in the river where it berthed, while its bow was abandoned on the river bank for quite a considerable amount of time. In the early eighties, however, there was renewed interest in the Waiora, and there were talks of potential remodelling. Almost at the same time, the “twin” boat, the Wairua, was being prepared for remodelling. Unfortunately, this did not materialize. The City Council eventually removed the bow when the riverbank was to be cleaned up, while most remains of the Waiora were left. Although still visible till date, these remains have only rot since then.

The boat had a number of distinguishing attributes, one of which is that it was strong. Taking a cue from its name, the Waiora was designed and subsequently built to be “sound” and strong. 

At production, the boat was said to weigh a gross of 10 tons – at that time, that was quite heavy for a boat. Also at production, the boat measured some 65 ft in length and 8 ft in width. This was quite large for a boat of those times as well. The combination of this weight and length made it quite a strong boat. This strength reflected in the uses to which it was put. For one, it was a general merchandise ship used to move goods across shallow ports.

There are many reasons why the Waiora was not reinstated or remodelled just as its counterpart, the Wairua, was. One of such reasons was the emergence of many newer and stronger vessels, gradually reducing the competitiveness of the Waiora. Then there was not much interest from locals to preserve the boat; this led to protracted periods of the boat being idle, thereby making the process of reinstating it even much more difficult.