Steadfast Steamers: Models of Hawke's Bay Shipping

1 Tennyson St, Napier

Taking pride of place in this new exhibition titled Steadfast Steamers: Models of Hawke’s Bay Shipping are four beautiful scale models of Hawke’s Bay steamers: the Hawke’s Bay and Marere steamers were commissioned specifically for the frozen meat market; the Nora Niven as a fishing trawler and the Kahu (Tuna) as a coastal steamer.

The shipbuilder created each scale model to show a prospective buyer how the full-sized steamer would appear, illustrating advanced building techniques and innovative features. After the ship was launched and delivered, the model was displayed prominently in the company boardroom, admired for their sleek lines and superior construction.

The small steamer Tuna, was built and launched in 1885 by shipbuilders in Newcastle, England. On its delivery passage to the firm of Richardsons and Company of Napier, the Tuna was wrecked in the Red Sea.

After a great deal of litigation and ill feeling the Richardson Company’s insurer paid up, and an identical sister ship, the Kahu, was built and arrived in Napier at the end of 1886. Richardson and Company did not receive a replica model of the Kahu so instead used the Tuna model as a showpiece in their boardroom.

The Hawke’s Bay and Marere, were both sleek and fast with reputations for delivering cargoes of frozen meat in the best possible condition. Owned by the Tyser Line Company they each made two trips per year to London, New York, Australia and New Zealand carrying Hawke’s Bay sheep and lamb carcasses, as well as pelts, wool and tallow.

Described as a fine sturdy trawler, the Nora Niven had on board an ice-making plant, used to keep the fishing catch fresh while out at sea. Coiled up on the port side was a huge trawling net connected to a powerful winch. A gas-lighting plant also ensured continual visibility throughout the night in case a catch needed to be winched aboard.

Sadly all that survives of the four original steamships are these models: despite dedicated service, history has not been kind, as they either floundered then sunk or were sold for scrap.

You will notice that the largest steamer, Marere appears more pristine that the other three: the model required intensive conservation work before it could be displayed. Conservator Detlef Klein from Manuwatu was commissioned to carry out this intricate work.

On the opposite side of the wall are a series of paintings by Charles Basil Norton depicting steamers owned by Richardson and Company Ltd, a coastal shipping line based on exporting wool and meat. These steamers provided a regular service to sheep stations from Cape Runaway to Cape Palliser: delivering stores and other cargo and returning with wool and live animals to the Port of Napier.

Isolated by lack of roads and railways, farmers were wholly reliant upon this coastal service for their livelihoods. The company also ran a fleet of lighters that transported wool from Port Ahuriri to ships anchored in deeper water, as well as a passenger and cargo service that sailed daily between Napier and Wairoa. A series of photographs alongside aptly illustrate the conveyance of wool bales out to a steamer at Akitio.

Take a seat in the small alcove situated next to the models, where there is a projection of Fishing Industry of New Zealand: Trawling in Napier, 1913 showing: a film kindly provided by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. The film provides a great insight and sense of quirkiness into the daily life of a fishing trawler, ways of communication and Ahuriri.


Mon 19th Nov 2018, 9:30am

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MTG Hawke's Bay, Napier, Hawke's Bay / Gisborne

1 Tennyson St, Napier