Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 38, September 1994
By Ian Parlane
Perhaps more than any of the dozens of ships which worked the Waihou and Ohinemuri Rivers to Paeroa for more than 70 years, the Taniwha stands out as the most significant. For almost 40 years she, day after day, plied the route between Auckland and Paeroa.
The Taniwha was ordered by the Northern Steamship Company from the Auckland shipyards of Robert Logan which had earlier built the Waimarie for the Auckland - Paeroa run. The Taniwha was rated at 263 tons with a length of 109 feet (33 metres) and a beam of 24 feet (seven metres). She was a wooden ship of diagonal kauri construction and had a draught of six feet three inches (a little less than two metres).
Her normal crew was 21 and she had facilities for 30 passengers. The passenger accommodation was under the poop-deck, which was 76 feet long. There was a forward deckhouse and bridge on which was mounted a searchlight to aid navigation on the river at night time. A rear deckhouse held the master's cabin, card room and access to the saloon companionway. The saloon was upholstered in red Utrecht velvet and panelled in mottled kauri and cedar. The electric lights had rose-tinted shades. The ship had two holds and her own derricks and steam winches so she could load and unload at unequipped river landings.
On her first sea trial she managed to work up to 12.3 knots but her average speed in service was 8.2 knots, which meant that she took between eight and nine hours to reach Paeroa from Auckland (about three hours in the river). Her maiden voyage to Paeroa departed from Auckland at 10.30am on 4 April 1898.
By 1937 the passenger trade had been lost to the private car and bus services so the company took the Taniwha off the run and after a few daytime excursion trips around the Hauraki Gulf, she was broken up in 1938 and now only her bell remains. During her service it's estimated Taniwha carried more than 250,000 passengers and one million tons of cargo.
The bell of the Taniwha recently returned to Paeroa on long term loan to the Paeroa Maritime Park. Florence Annison, chairperson of the Centennial Trust Board which administers Russell Museum in Northland, said that the bell was found in the old Russell Wharf shed in the 1950's. The bell had no significance to Russell because the boat never went up to the Bay of Islands, so was returned to Paeroa.
This 91 year old launch steamed from Paeroa to join other traditional boats at the opening of the Hobson Wharf Maritime Museum in August 1993. The boat is usually on display at Paeroa's Maritime Park. This was the first trip for the boat into the Hauraki Gulf in recent years and she was accompanied by another old launch, the "Swan". Launch owner, Mr John Hannah, said the Greenbank sails at about six knots and was expected to take ten hours to reach Auckland. The Greenbank was part of a steam-power sail-past during the opening of the Auckland Marine Museum.
REQUEST FOR INFORMATION: The Paeroa Maritime Park would like to hear from anyone who has memories of the Taniwha. The museum is interested in compiling any experiences, as well as collecting any memorabilia, of the Taniwha.