18 February 2009
Restoration work begins this week on the historic land wars vessel which brought the first colonial settlers to Kirikiriroa – the future site of Hamilton – on 24 August 1864.
The PS Rangiriri was commissioned by the New Zealand colonial government in 1864 for use on the Waikato River during the New Zealand Land Wars. Named after one of the most historic battles, the iron-hulled vessel arrived too late for the wars but was used as a supply and transport vessel on the Waikato River. In 1868 the PS Rangiriri was sold and under private ownership it continued to work the Waikato River until 1889 when it was run aground and hulked near its present location, on the riverbank at Memorial Park.
Waikato Museum collections services manager Darryl Pike will lead the conservation project which was adopted by Hamilton City Council and approved by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
Mr Pike says, "Many Hamiltonians will be familiar with the relict of the PS Rangiriri. From 1981-2 the vessel was excavated from its resting place in the Waikato River and set into paving on Memorial Park's riverbank with decking and seating set into the hull.
"Frequent floods, direct contact with the ground and inadequate drainage have been an ongoing issue at this site and over the time that has passed this had accelerated the deterioration of the vessel and inhibited preservation treatments."
Waikato Museum director Kate Vusoniwailala says, "the lifting and conservation of the PS Rangiriri is an important step towards protecting one of the city's significant heritage assets. The Museum holds the original rudder of the vessel in its collection and it was most recently exhibited in the Mighty River Waikato exhibition in a display illustrating early technology on the river."
Hamilton City Council's Conservation Plan outlines a program to lift and conserve the vessel as well as providing interpretive panels on site to educate visitors about the vessel's history and significance. Funding was recently approved for the conservation stages with interpretation to follow later when further funding is secured.
The conservation stage, which commenced this week, will continue until the end of March this year and includes de-silting the hull of the boat, building a retaining wall and supports, re-siting the boat, water blasting and repainting the hull and surrounding it with new timber and cobble work.
Mr Pike says, "This is an exciting project which is working to safeguard one of the city's most valuable cultural and historical assets. Part of the Waikato campaign of the land wars and the early Waikato River fleet, the PS Rangiriri is a relict of exceptional national significance. It was the vessel which landed Lieutenant Steele and the 4th Waikato Militia settlers at the future site of Hamilton and it was one of the first steamers constructed specifically for the narrow and shallow confines of the upper Waikato River. It is the earliest surviving iron hulled boat and the only surviving intact hull of this type of military vessel in New Zealand.
"The PS Rangiriri is a tangible memorial to Hamilton's beginnings, one which the community has expressed a real desire to see preserved. Council agrees and through this project it will be safeguarded for many generations to come."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Name: Darryl Pike
Designation: Waikato Museum Collections Services Manager
Tel (Direct): 07 838 6546
Mobile: 021 220 8667
Name: Christine Watson
Designation: Communication Executive
Tel (Direct): 07 838 6509
Mobile: 021 791 264
Fax (Direct): 07 838 6761