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History

Otunui, New Zealand's oldest operating paddleboat, is steel hulled, 16m long, weighs 13 tonnes, with a diesel engine driving twin side paddle wheels though hydraulic pumps and motors.

A paddleboat with more than 100 years of history in New Zealand, the Otunui was assembled in Wanganui from parts shipped from England in 1907 and went into service on the Whanganui River.

She was built to carry passengers and freight between Pipiriki and Taumaranui for Hatrick & Co. who operated over 12 vessels of this type.

The Otunui operated along the Whanganui River before sinking in a flood in 1949. She was buried in a river bank above Pipiriki where she slowly broke up and filled with shingle (water-worn pebbles).

In 1969, jet boat operator Barree Sproule dug it out of a shingle bank. He salvaged the then named Tangahoe and floated her back to Wanganui. In 1973 Barree restored the boat and got her back into service. He renamed her back to Otunui.

The Otunui’s first trip was to Pipiriki where she carried sheep and wool and a few tourists. She later operated in different locations including the Waikato River below Huka Falls, Lake Okataina and back on the Whanganui River.

In 2003, the Otunui caught fire and was burned to deck level and sank at Wairakei near Taupo. Barree Sproule, who had since sold the boat, repurchased the Otunui and, over 3 years, rebuilt his beloved boat in the Coromandel.

In 2006, after 3 years of restoration, the Otunui sailed up the Waihau River from Thames to Paeroa. Two years later she sailed down river to Te Aroha where she operated as a popular tourist attraction.

After purchasing the boat in 2010 Peter Koole moved the boat to Lake Maraetai then Lake Whakamaru on the Waikato River near Mangakino. But with too small a local population to support the business, Otunui was moved to the Wairoa River, Tauranga in 2014. Now operating from Waimarino Adventure Park, the Otunui continues to give the best scenic cruises to satisfied customers.

Turning 107 in 2014, the Otunui has a colourful history – carrying a variety of passengers ranging from cattle, sheep and wool, to the Queen (on a passenger cruise to Huka Falls).







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