The river town of Kaiapoi in North Canterbury finally has a boat to call its own, four years after its iconic MV Tuhoe was wrecked in a tragic stranding.
It was a big moment for residents today as the paddle steamer replica Kaiapoi River Queen was lowered into the river, following a lengthy $300,000 restoration project.
The boat is backed by a consortium of investors and headed by entrepreneur Dennis Andreassend, who plans to offer short cruises from next month. It was built in 2000 and had spent the last 10 years cruising in Marlborough.
“We're going to do casual cruises, weddings, birthday parties and work functions on board up and down the Kaiapoi,” Mr Andreassend says.
“It was built that way to represent an old paddle steamer, but it's got two outboards on it, tucked away so you can't see. Yeah, it's pretty neat.”
Today’s launch marks the first return of a riverboat to the Kaiapoi, following the wrecking of the historic MV Tuhoe on the Kaiapoi River Bar in 2015.
The schooner was built in 1919 and had been the icon of the town, which was already suffering after the Canterbury earthquakes.
Waimakariri District Mayor Dan Gordon says the council has spent in excess of a million dollars dredging the river to encourage more activity like this.
“This here is going to become one of the icons of our town,” he says.
“Post-earthquakes, this is very important in Kaiapoi's story of regeneration, and it's going to be a fantastic asset for our area.”
A small crowd gathered for the launch today, with a crane required to lower the new boat into the water.
Most were excited for the future, with resident Elizabeth Pitcorn remarking it was “really going to re-invigorate the township”.
Longtime resident Barbara Page, who previously travelled on the boat in Marlborough, was particularly delighted.
“I reckon this is a great thing. We've got the river here, so why don't we use it,” she says.
On the water, it was an instant classic - the newcomer mooring up to the spot once held by the MV Tuhoe.
Kaiapoi’s new River Queen - returning some pride to this little river town.