Auckland’s preserved steam tug under threat

Auckland is one of very few cities in the world to have a heritage coal- fired steam tug operating on its harbour, providing unique sights, sounds and style.

William C. Daldy is a popular and distinctive feature at her berth on Devonport’s Victoria Wharf, where she is regularly open to the public.

Interest builds even more when she fires up for summer public sailings, special events or chartered trips on the harbour.

The William C Daldy Preservation Society has operated and maintained the tug since purchasing her from the Auckland Harbour Board in 1975.

It is run by dedicated volunteers who share the public’s pleasure in seeing and hearing a steam ship at work and admiring the gleaming timber and brass work.

The steam engineers below deck stoking the boilers and monitoring the dials are particularly valuable volunteers, but others come from all walks of life to assist with deck work, galley and many other jobs.

But, after years of service to Auckland, William C Daldy is now facing an uncertain future. Three years of Covid have prevented public sailings, cutting into the tug’s earnings and reserves.

The lack of public operations has also reduced the Preservation Society’s ability to attract and train volunteers and to publicise the goal to train and replace retiring expert crew with current qualifications. Each sailing is costing more as the cost of Huntly coal has continued to increase.

As with all other public ventures, sponsorship support is keenly sought, but harder than ever to achieve.

The tug’s berth at Devonport’s Victoria Wharf is vital to display the ship when she is not sailing and to make public events accessible.

The Preservation Society values this goodwill from Auckland Council and Eke Panuku, but it requires the tug to be fully insured and operational, with full marine surveys to meet Maritime NZ passenger ship regulations.

Deferred maintenance means that urgent work is needed to the tug before September to maintain its insurance and survey standards.

The tug will have to be docked for the repairs; the total work is estimated to be around $1m although some could possibly be deferred yet again.

The Preservation Society cannot fund this with current reserves.

A special group of advisers has been working since last year on options to secure the future of William C. Daldy.

Its focus is on sourcing sponsorship and practical offers before September to keep the ship sailing. If this is not achieved, options for the tug are limited.

The best may be to become a static museum or sold as a commercial entity. If these don’t eventuate, sinking or selling the tug for scrap are final options.  This would be a tragedy for the Auckland’s maritime history and an irreplaceable loss for the Harbour.

Public and maritime support is called for to keep Auckland’s treasured heritage tug afloat for her centenary in 2035. All suggestions and offers of help are welcome – contact John Pratt, 0277071136  or:


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