She's here. The
new Rangatira will enter service
tomorrow. It's a whole new experience in inter-island sea travel. Attractively
decorated cabins, many with private shower and toilet facilities. A restaurant
with an a la carte menu and a representative wine list. The cafeteria and
General Lounge with T.V. are bold in their colour schemes; the Sports Bar and
Pacific Room are relaxed in their atmosphere.
Union Steam Ship Company advertisement, 1972
The Wahine tragedy of 1968 cast a dark cloud over the Lyttelton–Wellington service. Hopes of salvaging the sunken vessel were dashed, and for years passengers on both the Cook Strait and
Lyttelton ferries endured the grim sight of the converted salvage ship Holmpark cutting up the wreck.
The Union Steam Ship Company responded by ordering a bigger, better Wahine – the second Rangatira, which entered service in 1972 – but times had changed. The National Airways Corporation's
Boeing 737 and Friendship aircraft now made flying more convenient and increasingly more affordable, grabbing the business travellers who were the
bedrock customers. For those wanting to
travel with their cars, the Picton–Wellington ferries offered a shorter,
cheaper crossing. The long overnight voyage attracted fewer people, and soaring crew
costs only added to the Rangatira's
The Union Steam Ship Company now abandoned its glamour
service, sending the Maori to the
scrappers in 1974 and then chartering the Rangatira
to the Ministry of Transport, which ran the ship for another two years before
returning her in September 1976. The Rangatira
later served as a British troop ship in the Falkland War. After several renamings, and
much time laid up, she was finally scrapped in Turkey in 2005.
How to cite this page: 'End of the line - Lyttelton-Wellington ferries', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/lyttelton-wellington-ferries/end-of-the-line, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012