About The Paddleboat Company - Otunui
The Waihou River could again become a transport artery through the district.
Barree Spoule, owner of paddleboat Otunui, is looking to establish a river link between Te Aroha and Matamata, reminiscent of farming pioneer Josiah Firth.
Firth ran a steamship – the Kotuku – to carry cargo on the Waihou River between Auckland and his family port – Stanley Landing – near Matamata in the 1880s.
Mr Spoule has had the 100-year-old Otunui “in the water” at Paeroa since 2006 and ran trips on the Waihou River to Te Aroha and back last summer.
However, he now wants to base the service in Te Aroha and open up a river link with Stanley Landing, restored by Matamata Historical Society, on Tower Rd.
“I want to run this end of the river,” he told the Piako Post on board the vessel near the Te Aroha boat ramp last week.
Mr Spoule plans to talk to Te Aroha businesses, along with the district and regional councils. He has consent to operate in Paeroa, but this would need to be extended to Matamata-Piako.
He has already spoken to the Matamata Historical Society.
At present he can reach near the Shaftsbury Bridge at Manawaru, where a tree is blocking progress to Stanley Landing. Mr Spoule plans to talk to Environment Waikato about its removal.
He ultimately envisages one-way trips linking with coachlines, tapping into the amenities such as Te Aroha’s spa pools.
The Otunui operated along the Whanganui River before sinking in a flood in 1949. Mr Spoule dug it out of a shingle bank in 1969 and had it restored in 1973.
He sold the vessel and then bought it gain in 2003 after the wooden craft was brunt out, rebuilding it over three years in Coromandel.
Turning 101 this year, the Otunui has a colourful history – carrying a variety of passengers ranging form cattle, sheep and wool, to the Queen (on a passenger cruise to Huka Falls).
By Steve Edwards @ Piako Post