PS Tasmanian Maid Wreck Site

Kawaroa (Long) Reef, New Plymouth

  • PS Tasmanian Maid Wreck Site, Kawaroa (Long) Reef, New Plymouth. Paddle wheel of PS Tasmanian Maid.
    Copyright: Andy Dodd. Taken By: Andy Dodd. Date: 1/12/2008.
  • PS Tasmanian Maid Wreck Site, Kawaroa (Long) Reef, New Plymouth. Part of machinery.
    Copyright: Andy Dodd. Taken By: Andy Dodd. Date: 1/12/2008.
  • PS Tasmanian Maid Wreck Site, Kawaroa (Long) Reef, New Plymouth. Hull plates.
    Copyright: Andy Dodd. Taken By: Andy Dodd. Date: 1/12/2008.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 9521 Date Entered 30th April 2010


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the seabed in the immediate vicinity of the Kawaroa Reef and shipwreck material contained within that area (Grid reference NZTM 5677072 1692266 and the area within a 50m radius of this point. Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

New Plymouth District


Taranaki Region

Legal description


Location description

Site is located approximately 500m NE of the Kawaroa Baths, and 650m N of the Tasman Hotel.


The remains of the paddle steamer Tasmanian Maid lie in 8-10 metres of water on the Kawaroa Reef, New Plymouth. During its brief but eventful career, it operated first as a coastal steamer servicing the Nelson/Marlborough area, and later as a supply and dispatch vessel in the Taranaki campaign of the New Zealand Wars.

Constructed in 1856, the vessel was well suited to working on shallow bars and in the narrow confines of rivers, and earned the distinction of being the first steamer to enter the Buller River in 1862. It was subsequently purchased by the colonial government and refitted to serve as the gunboat HMS Sandfly in the Hauraki Gulf and Firth of Thames, taking part in the fighting at Maketu and the blockade of the Firth of Thames in 1864. From there it went on to serve on the west coast of the North Island, in particular assisting with the landing of Crown troops at Wanganui, acting as a supply vessel to the upper reaches of the Wanganui River, and along with PS Gundagai was instrumental in establishing the commissariat redoubt on the lower Patea River in 1865. After the wars, the vessel reverted to private ownership and regained its former name, and was again used as a coastal steamer transporting passengers to and from Auckland and the Coromandel and West Coast goldfields. The Tasmanian Maid wrecked on 16 January 1868, and was rediscovered by divers from the New Plymouth Underwater Club in 1976.

Despite the Tasmanian Maid's loss as a civilian vessel, the wreck site comprises a significant relic of the New Zealand Wars Government fleet. During its wartime service it was commanded by able Captains, such as Hannibal Marks, who was commended for his vigor and exertion in the execution of his duties. Many of the vessels that saw active service in the New Zealand Wars ended their careers overseas, and many have not been relocated since their initial loss. The Tasmanian Maid was also historically significant in its civilian career. It was the first steamer across the Buller River bar in 1862, and its shallow draft allowed it to push the boundaries of river transport, although not without consequence on occasion.

It is also a reminder of the hazards of the New Plymouth roadstead prior to the construction of the port at Ngamotu. The wreck site is known to divers, and despite its broken up and scattered condition the site is still likely to retain significant archaeological values. The machinery is still largely intact and various components of the wreck such as the paddlewheels, rudder and hull plates are still easily identified. The remains comprise one of the last remnants of the New Zealand Wars fleet accessible to divers.

The Tasmanian Maid wreck site is of special historical significance. Relocated nineteenth century shipwrecks are nationally rare in New Zealand and in-situ remains of New Zealand Wars vessels are rarer still. During the New Zealand Wars, the Tasmanian Maid played a significant supporting role transporting troops and supplies to otherwise inaccessible areas, and was actively involved in combat on several occasions as HMS Sandfly. In this way it is an important reminder of a major series of events in New Zealand history: the resistance of Maori to the enforced alienation of their lands by the Crown and the Crown's hostile response to those challenges. The vessel also has significant associations with influential figures in New Zealand history. The wreck site of the Tasmanian Maid meets a wide range of significance criteria. In addition to its role in important historical events and association with figures in New Zealand history, as a paddle steamer it is archaeologically significant as a rare site type, namely New Zealand Wars naval vessels. It is also representative of a commonly used form of coastal transport in the mid-nineteenth century.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Tasmanian Maid / HMS Sandfly is historically significant for its role in the New Zealand Wars, during which it saw active service during the Taranaki campaign of 1860-61, the Firth of Thames and Tauranga in 1863, and the Wanganui and South Taranaki campaigns of 1865. As such the wreck site can be considered to be of outstanding historical significance, for its association with events that had an irrefutable effect on New Zealand's history. The Tasmanian Maid was also the first steamer to enter the Buller River and the vessel was employed in the 1865 hydrographical survey of Cook Strait by James Balfour. The vessel provided transport for miners and equipment to and from the Coromandel and West Coast gold rushes of the 1860s.

Archaeological Significance or Value

The wreck site meets the definition of an archaeological site contained in the Historic Places Act 1993, and is one of the few shipwrecks to have been recorded archaeologically in New Zealand. Shipwrecks of New Zealand Wars period vessels are nationally rare and of those that remained in New Zealand few have been re-located; as such the wreck can be considered to be of outstanding archaeological significance. The material components of the vessel's construction can be investigated archaeologically. The cargo is unlikely to have survived, but artefacts belonging to the passengers or crew might still be contained within the site. The Tasmanian Maid can therefore potentially provide significant archaeological evidence relating to the construction and subsequent repair of the vessel and its machinery, the material culture of the passengers and crew, and the 1868 wreck event. Details of the vessels form and appearance are also limited and the wreck site can provide additional information for this purpose.

Technological Significance or Value

The shallow draft and side paddle wheel form was, by no means, unique to the Tasmanian Maid, but it was an important feature that allowed navigation of narrow and shallow rivers and across bars that were impassable to larger vessels. Naval capacity and the ability to transport troops and supplies by sea was crucial in the Taranaki campaign at times when the settlements of New Plymouth and Waitara were effectively under siege, and the threat of ambush made travel along the roads inherently risky.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The Tasmanian Maid was employed in the coastal trade associated with gold mining at Coromandel and the West Coast of the South Island. The Tasmanian Maid can also be considered a representative example of mid-nineteenth century coastal paddle steamers which provided regular service for passengers and cargo between many of the country's small ports prior to the widespread development of roads and rail.

The wreck site is also a vivid reminder of the hazards of a roadstead port, and the Tasmanian Maid and the Kawaroa Reef which was immediately west of the landing at Huatoki was the location of several shipwrecks before the construction of the breakwater port in 1881.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The Tasmanian Maid is closely associated with the New Zealand Wars and was notable for its role in several major campaigns between 1860 and 1865 including Tauranga, Thames, Waikato, Waitara, Patea and Wanganui. It was primarily a support vessel, but was actively engaged in combat also. In this way it is an important reminder of a major series of events in New Zealand history: the resistance of Maori to the enforced alienation of their lands by the Crown and the Crown's hostile response to those challenges.

While in the service of the NZ government as HMS Sandfly it was associated with notable figures of the New Zealand Wars naval campaigns including Captain Hannibal Marks, and Captain Francis Caddell. It was used as a reconnaissance vessel by both General Pratt during the first Taranaki campaign in 1860 and General Cameron during the South Taranaki campaign in 1865.

The vessel was associated with the 1865 hydrographical survey of Cook Strait by James Balfour, a notable marine engineer.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history

The physical fabric has potential to provide information about the types of vessels that served the colonial government in the New Zealand Wars. As it has not been possible to thus far obtain construction plans the archaeological remains provide one of the few sources of information that can verify details of the vessel form and machinery on board. Study of the physical remains can sometimes provide details of repair and alterations not otherwise documented in the historical record. It is also possible that the site may contain items which can inform questions relating to life on board vessels during the mid-nineteenth century.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place

There has been a strong interest in historic shipwrecks in Taranaki through divers associated with the New Plymouth Underwater Club. There is also considerable public interest generally in New Zealand Wars and shipwreck history.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

The site is likely to be of considerable interest to people researching the New Zealand Wars, or people with ancestors who served as crew on the vessel in its various forms. New Zealand Wars period history can potentially be divisive, but was nevertheless important in the shaping of New Zealand's modern cultural identity. The place could be provided with interpretation targeted at divers and historic shipwreck preservation. This might be done on site or remotely through Puke Ariki Museum. Concrete plinths with interpretation on Australian shipwrecks have been successfully used in Victoria, Australia.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

Paddle steamers were not a new innovation by the 1850s, but vessels with shallow draft and side paddle wheel propulsion were important for establishing a sea link to shallow and difficult river harbours. It is significant that the Tasmanian Maid was the first steamer into the Buller River, navigated further up the Wairau River than previously attempted and was able to trans-ship passengers and cargo into ports that were not accessible to many other vessels. The paddle wheel propulsion also allowed HMS Sandfly to 'walk across' bars on at least one occasion in spite of insufficient water depth.

(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement

The Tasmanian Maid was instrumental in the establishment of a settlement at Patea which grew up around the Commissariat redoubt, and also played an important role in the newly formed West Coast ports following on from the 1860s gold rushes.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places

The site is nationally rare and unique as a New Zealand Wars naval vessel of which only a small number of known and reliably documented archaeological shipwreck sites exist.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape

Along with the remains of early ports and coastal infrastructure, New Zealand shipwrecks form an important component of New Zealand's maritime historical landscape. The Kawaroa Reef was the final resting place of several vessels, and lies immediately west of the landing and anchorage at Huatoki, in New Plymouth. To the west is Port Taranaki which was established partly in response to New Plymouth's reputation as a dangerous roadstead harbour. Also recorded in the vicinity are moorings associated with the roadstead anchorage.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.

The Tasmanian Maid Wreck Site has special archaeological significance as a nationally rare example of an identified and in-situ, nineteenth century wreck. The Tasmanian Maid is of special historical significance for its significant supporting role in the New Zealand Wars, in which it transported troops and supplies to otherwise inaccessible areas, and was actively involved in combat on several occasions as HMS Sandfly. In this way it is an important reminder of a major series of events in New Zealand history: the resistance of Maori to the enforced alienation of their lands by the Crown and the Crown's hostile response to those challenges. The vessel also has significance for its associations with prominent figures in New Zealand Wars naval history. Captain Marks received commendation for his role in the fighting at Maketu while in command of HMS Sandfly, and the vessel has strong connections with Captain Caddell of the Waikato River fleet on account of the alleged mutiny. In addition to its role in important historical events and association with figures in New Zealand history, as a paddle steamer it can also claim to be representative of a commonly used form of coastal transport in the mid-nineteenth century.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Richardson Duck and Co.

Richardson Duck and Co., South Stockton, Yorkshire, England

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Nelson coastal service (1857-60)

The Tasmanian Maid was constructed by Richardson Duck and Co., Stockton, Yorkshire, for Frederick Ducrey of London, and launched on 17 April 1856. Subsequently it was purchased by the Nelson Coast Steam Navigation Company and sailed via Melbourne under Captain Wood, arriving in ballast at Nelson on 17 June 1857. The first domestic excursion was to Motueka and Wairau on 23 June 1857. Between June 1857 and March 1860, under the command of Captain Trewheellar, the Tasmanian Maid performed a regular service based in Nelson transporting passengers and cargo to Motueka, Collingwood, Picton and Wairau. The Tasmanian Maid was given a New Zealand registration on 7 December 1857.

New Zealand Wars - Taranaki (1860-61)

The Tasmanian Maid would then play a part in what is now known as the New Zealand Wars, waged between the Crown and Maori in response to Maori uprising against the enforced alienation of their land. Hostilities in Taranaki during the 1860s were a result of tension over colonisation that had been brewing since 1841. Fighting across large areas of the North Island, including major clashes in the Waikato, caused widespread deprivation, suffering and loss of life and land for iwi, resulting in the heavy confiscation of tribal land taken by the Crown under the Land Settlement Act of 1863. The devastating effects of these actions has since been acknowledged by the Crown through formal apologies and efforts of redress by settlement agreements.

Following the outbreak of fighting in Taranaki, the Tasmanian Maid was chartered to offer colonial women and children passage from New Plymouth to Nelson. Having successfully completed this task the Tasmanian Maid was made available to assist with the Crown's war effort in Taranaki. The role of the Tasmanian Maid was chiefly that of providing for regular coastal traffic between New Plymouth and Waitara in response to the Maori blockade of the overland route. Soldiers, guns, ammunition, supplies, and orders were conveyed to the front at Waitara and wounded soldiers, intelligence and correspondence brought back. In addition to the regular New Plymouth-Waitara run, the Tasmanian Maid also ranged along the Taranaki coast between Mokau and Warea.

The New Zealand Wars had a devastating and long lasting impact on Maori, and Tasmanian Maid was occasionally involved in hostilities, accompanying the HMS Cordelia to Tataraimaka on 27 April 1860, where the later vessel fired on the pa and village. Cordelia was unable to land on the rocky shore at Tataraimaka, and when a shore party under Captain Seymour eventually stormed the pa, they found it deserted. Cordelia subsequently returned to New Plymouth, and left the Tasmanian Maid at Warea. On 5 August 1860 the Tasmanian Maid was used by General Pratt and his staff for a reconnaissance journey up the coast north of Waitara to where Cordelia was anchored at Puke Aruhe, allowing Pratt to inspect the Onaero, Urenui and Mimi River mouths.

Navigating rivers and crossing bars was not without its hazards, and on 4 April 1860 Tasmanian Maid bumped on the Waitara bar, the first of many groundings. On 16 April the Tasmanian Maid ran aground a second time, but was able to get off a couple of days later without sustaining significant damage. A third grounding occurred when crossing the Waitara bar in rough conditions on 24 June. Later that day while anchored in rough weather at the New Plymouth roadstead one of the crew was washed overboard and swept under the vessel, but fortunately rescued on the opposite side. In October 1860 the Tasmanian Maid parted its cables and was carried onto the Waitara bar where waves washed across the deck and it was uncertain if the vessel could be righted. Fortunately a shift in the wind eased its condition and allowed Tasmanian Maid to get up steam and run up on the beach where it remained for several days. Collisions while coaling in rough or unpredictable conditions also presented a hazard, and one of the more serious mishaps of this nature occurred on 29 July 1860 while taking on coal from the Airedale at Waitara. The vessels came together violently and the sponson beam of the Tasmanian Maid was smashed in.

Nelson coastal service (1861-62)

With the conclusion of hostilities in July 1861, the Tasmanian Maid was released from its wartime service and returned to the Nelson & Marlborough Steam Navigation Company to recommence its former duties. The paddle steamer was purchased by Edwards, Bennett, Wilkie, Stafford, Nancarrow and Cross for £3600 in September 1861, re-registered 3/1861 Port of Nelson, and run again on the Nelson coast.

The light draft and paddle wheel propulsion made the Tasmanian Maid ideal for getting across otherwise dangerous bars and up shallow rivers, and on 29 Jan 1862 the Tasmanian Maid was the first steamer to enter the Buller River. However it was not always fortunate in such ventures. In October 1861 the Tasmanian Maid was back in Taranaki waters and suffered a near miss when the anchors dragged and the vessel had to be run on to the north bank of the Waitara River for safety, and on 25 May 1862 it stranded in the Wairau River. As the Steam Navigation Association lacked the funds to salvage the vessel, it was sold for £820 before being refloated and towed back to Nelson.

Coromandel goldfields (1862-63)

In August 1862 an unsuccessful attempt was made to navigate the Opawa River to Blenheim which resulted in the Tasmanian Maid becoming stranded for about 10 days. The paddle steamer was refloated, and returned to the Nelson wharf where she was sold a day later for £3000 to an Auckland consortium of Josiah Firth, Daniel Thornton and William Smith. The Tasmanian Maid was then relocated to Auckland for the Coromandel run under Captain Jackson, where she replaced the cutter Thames.

The Tasmanian Maid also serviced the Auckland-Whangarei coastal route, and every week from September 1862 made three trips each to Coromandel and Whangarei. From April 1863, the service was reduced to two trips each. The vessel was re-registered on 4 November 1862.

New Zealand Wars - Tauranga and the Firth of Thames (1863-64)

In June 1863 Tasmanian Maid was purchased by the colonial government for £4000, armored, fitted with two 12 pound Armstrong guns, and renamed HMS Sandfly, as reported by the Nelson Examiner:

'This little steamer, now called the Sandfly, has been put in good defensive and offensive condition; mounting a brass 12-pounder forward, and a brass howitzer aft. Barricades to prevent her being carried by boarding, and bullet-proof shields have been act up around her gangways - every service that could transform a small commercial coaster to an extempore cruiser having been pressed into requisition.'

The government's pennant was raised on 23 June 1863, and between June and October was commanded by Lieutenant Hunt of the HMS Harrier. From 12 October 1863 Lieutenant Hunt was transferred to the steamer Lady Barkley and command of the Sandfly was transferred to Captain Hannibal Marks, formerly of the gunboat HMS Caroline. Maori conferred a somewhat appropriate nickname on the vessel, Kopikopiko, which translates as 'goes backwards and forwards'. While at Auckland the Sandfly was predominantly tasked as a dispatch and troop transport between the Waitemata and Thames, but did play a notable part in events.

During the latter part of 1863, the Sandfly was a semi-regular caller at Wairoa. On 28 July 1863 Sandfly departed Auckland for Wairoa towing troops of the 2nd Company Naval volunteers onboard the barge Greenwich. Additional troops were delivered to Wairoa in September, venturing as far as Ring's redoubt in September 1863. For protection against canoe boarding parties, galvanised wire was stretched along the bulwarks and mattresses stuffed with flax provided protection from musket fire.

While at Auckland the Sandfly's duties included patrols of the Firth of Thames to suppress unauthorised shipping. On 31 October 1863, Sandfly captured the cutter Eclair near Browns Island attempting to transport supplies to the Maori forces at Thames. The Eclair attempted to evade capture, but surrendered after Marks ordered a shot across her bow, and the cutter was escorted back to Auckland. Later that year, on 26 December, the Sandfly also captured the cutter Ariel, attempting to run the blockade out of the Piako River at dusk. When the crew failed to satisfactorily explain their business they were escorted back to Auckland.

On 4 November the Sandfly and HMS Miranda engaged Maori forces at Whakatiwai. The two gunboats shelled settlements there and destroyed the captured schooner Emma and ten canoes before returning to Auckland. On 16 November 1863, Sandfly was part of a larger expedition under Lieutenant-Colonel Carey. The intention was to occupy the Maori settlements on the western side of the Firth of Thames, and establish a line of redoubts to protect the southern approach to Auckland and prevent raiding parties crossing into the Wairoa Ranges. The colonial forces comprised around 900 men made up of two companies of the Auckland Coastguards, 60 Colonial Defence Force Calvary, detachments of the 12th and 70th militia, and the 1st regiment of the Waikato militia. The Miranda and Esk led the force assisted by the Sandfly, Corio and Alexandra. Also part of this force was the brigantine Jessie and seven or eight cutters. The expedition was thwarted by bad weather and failed to proceed further than Waiheke.

A second smaller expedition comprising the Esk, Miranda, Sandfly, Corio, Eliza and four cutters departed Auckland for Thames on 22 November. Troops were landed at Wakatiwai and Pokorokoro before arriving at Thames on the 23 November to find the area largely evacuated of Maori forces.

Another notable engagement involving the Sandfly occurred in April 1864. General Cameron had established his headquarters at Tauranga on 21 April. On the 27 April Tai Rawhiti Maori attacked Fort Colville, but in turn were attacked by HMS Falcon assisted by the Sandfly. Under the command of Captain Jenkins, and crewed by men of the Miranda, Sandfly bombarded the Tai-Rawhiti entrenchments at Maketu. The Tai-Rawhiti were driven from their position which was stormed by McDonnell's rangers and a Ngati Pikiao force under Te Pokiha Taranui. The remaining Tai Rawhiti force was shelled by Sandfly and Falcon as they retreated along the coast. Captain Hannibal Marks of the Sandfly and Lieutenant Hope of the Falcon were both commended for their 'zeal and exertion'.

New Zealand Wars - Wanganui (1864-65)

In December 1864 the Sandfly and Prince Alfred accompanied the HMS Falcon and HMS Eclipse from Manukau to Wanganui with over 1000 troops of the 18th and 50th Regiments, as well as the Royal Artillery with two six-pounder guns, and were later followed by a further 220 men in the Alexandra. Sandfly stayed behind at Wanganui to discharge supplies and troops from larger vessels that could not enter the river. Within the first month of arrival at Wanganui the Sandfly was reported to have crossed the bar some 25 times and landed over 2000 soldiers.

In addition to the lightering service, Sandfly was also involved in reconnaissance of the Waitotara River with General Cameron on 31 January, and along with Gundagai provided support for Colonel Waddy's overland expedition from Wanganui to Patea. Patea was reached on 16 February and both Sandfly and Gundagai successfully crossed the bar and unloaded supplies directly below the camp. The depth of water on the bar, at just over six feet, was sufficient for Gundagai, and but required the Sandfly, whose draft was seven feet four inches, to 'walk across' on its paddles. Having determined the suitability of the river harbour, Cameron established his main camp at Patea, and in the absence of any other suitable landing points along the South Taranaki coast, it was to become the main supply base for the campaign.

Mutiny of Captain Marks

On 8 March 1865 Sandfly was due to leave Onehunga for Port Waikato. Captain Cadell, who had by then been appointed supervisor of the Waikato Steam Transport Service, became impatient with the delay and ordered the first mate to load and sail without Captain Marks on board. Sandfly struck in a sandbank about seven miles from Onehunga. When Marks returned, he caught up with the Sandfly by row boat, and placed the first mate under arrest for taking orders from Cadell. The Sandfly was got off the following day, and as the bar was too rough to attempt a crossing, Cadell was deposited at Waiuku, so as to proceed to Port Waikato overland and Marks returned with the Sandfly to Onehunga. When the Sandfly arrived at Port Waikato on 13 March, Marks was ordered by Cadell to reinstate the mate and discharge another seaman, John Barham, for disobeying orders. When Marks refused to do either he was dismissed. When the crew sided with Marks and refused to take orders from Fox, or to leave the vessel, they were issued a summons to appear before the resident magistrate and dismissed also. Marks was charged with neglect of duty in not having the Sandfly loaded, disobedience in refusing to discharge Barham, inciting mutiny, and obstructing the public service.

By 12 May the question of Captain Mark's suspension was again under consideration, Francis Cadell having prepared formal charges against him. Marks rejected the charge of mutiny, and maintained that the weather had been the underlying cause of the delay. He testified that the vessel had arrived on 6 March from Port Waikato, and this was reported to Cadell the following morning. Marks maintained that Sandfly had only just got alongside the wharf, and he had gone to get carts to load the steamer at which point Cadell had ordered the Sandfly to leave in his absence. Further he maintained that Barham had been with the vessel for 13 months and he had no complaints about him, and therefore he was not willing to dismiss him.

Marks was awarded full pay during the course of his suspension and through to the end of the month. However in the interim the government had decided to sell the Sandfly, and Marks was informed that his services were no longer required. In June the Sandfly and the Prince Alfred were put up for sale by tender, but the Sandfly does not appear to have attracted a suitable offer.

Captain Fox

Following the suspension of Captain Marks, command was transferred to Captain Fox, and the Sandfly was put into service on the west coast. On 15 March, Fox proceeded from Port Waikato to Patea and then onto Wanganui. Between March and April 1865 the Sandfly worked alongside Gundagai between Wanganui and Patea. Sandfly ground twice on the Patea bar, the first time while towing the cutter Favourite across on 22 March, and a second time four days later on 26 March. Both times Fox was able to get the paddle steamer off on subsequent high tides without sustaining damage. At Wanganui on 25 March the Sandfly took 100 Taranaki military settlers up the river to establish a post at Putereki.

Between 7 April and 6 May the Sandfly underwent a complete overhaul on the Evans Bay slip in Wellington harbour. Throughout June and early July 1865 the Sandfly was based in Cook Strait, and engaged in a variety of tasks which included searching Cook Strait for the lost vessel, City of Dunedin, and also several days in the service of James Balfour conducting a hydrographic survey of Cook Strait to determine a suitable location for the laying of the telegraph cable. Towards the end of July the Sandfly was again involved in the conveyance of supplies to troops stationed at Parikino on the Wanganui River. When she returned to Wellington on 29 July it was with captured Maori prisoners from Areiahi who had been on their way to join the fighting at Wereroa pa.

Auckland coastal service (1865-66)

The Sandfly was eventually purchased by Samuel Cochrane of Onehunga on 26 July 1865, and was delivered to Auckland via Napier on the 9 August. She was re-registered with former pre-war name Tasmanian Maid. Between August 1865 and December 1866 the Tasmanian Maid was employed on the coastal service running regular weekly trips between Auckland and Coromandel, and Auckland and Whangarei. The coastal service was subsidised by the government at £100 per month. The service was only interrupted between 1 April and 14 May 1866, when the vessel underwent a complete overhaul of her machinery at Fraser and Tinne's shipyard in Auckland.

West coast goldfields Captain Souter (1866-68)

In December 1866 the Tasmanian Maid was purchased by William Souter with the intention of providing a service between Onehunga and Hokitika, including the ports at the Grey and Buller River mouths. On 10 December the Tasmanian Maid left Waitemata and steamed around the North Cape arriving in Onehunga on 15 December. For the next four weeks she underwent alterations to her machinery finally departing for Westport on 12 January 1867. Between 18 January and 27 July the Tasmanian Maid frequented the West Coast river ports of Buller, Grey, Hokitika, and Fox River.

The west coast river ports were notorious for their heavy surf and unpredictable bars and it was not without mishaps that the Tasmanian Maid serviced those ports. On 22 February she ground on the south spit at Hokitika, but was able to reverse off, and the next day she had her starboard bulwarks carried away in rough seas at Fox River. On 16 May 1867 she struck on the boiler from the wreck of the New Zealand at the mouth of the Hokitika River, and went ashore on the north spit. She got off the following day but had knocked a hole in her bottom and had to be beached on the south bank for repairs. She was inspected while on the south beach and it was noted that there was two to three feet of water in the hold and the tide was ebbing in and out of leaks in her engine room. Later that month she was able to be hauled off the beach and put on blocks and an examination of the hold revealed that damage was limited to a hole in the garboard strake and some missing rivets.

An unusual incident occurred with the Hokitika customs authorities on 22 July 1867 when Souter had agreed to load 50 cases of kerosene on board the Mary Cumming. The kerosene had not been able to be obtained earlier by Mary Cumming's owner Mr Weir as supplies on shore had been sold out. Souter agreed to trans-ship the kerosene but did so without the customs permit. Mr Weir subsequently paid the customs duty, but the cargo was seized two hours later as contraband. The kerosene was subsequently released to Mr Weir, but Captain Souter was required to pay a £100 bond in the event of the seizure being found justified. Souter returned to Onehunga on 27 July and Tasmanian Maid spent the next six weeks in dock getting a thorough overhaul and refit.

On 18 September Tasmanian Maid left Manukau for the west coast again. In addition to the coastal service, Tasmanian Maid was frequently commissioned by other vessels to trans-ship passengers, cargo and mail across the bars when other captains were unwilling to risk their own vessels. Souter performed this service successfully for the steamers Airedale and Egmont on 5 October at Hokitika, although she bumped heavily on the bar in doing so. Souter was not so fortunate later that month performing the same service for the Leonidas, Glencoe and Harriet Nathan on 24 October. The Tasmanian Maid took on a heavy cargo including 119 sheep, pigs, poultry and four bullocks, and crossed the Hokitika bar via the north channel but was subsequently washed across the river and went ashore on the south spit. The cargo was got ashore and the Tasmanian Maid winched off the following day with the assistance of the harbour master. Another grounding occurred on 1 November, when Tasmanian Maid ran aground at Okarito, were she stuck for several tides before eventually being freed without damage.

With the gold rush traffic starting to ebb, Souter started running the Tasmanian Maid between Onehunga and the West Coast ports, advertising passage in the Hokitika newspapers to the 'Auckland goldfields'. The first run back departed Buller on the 20 December, arriving off the Manukau Heads on the 23 December.

Loss (16 January 1868)

The Tasmanian Maid departed Onehunga for Westport on 15 January 1868 with six passengers and a cargo of potatoes, onions and cheese. On route, a strong SW sea developed off the Taranaki coast and the Tasmanian Maid called briefly at New Plymouth to shelter. While at New Plymouth Captain Souter made arrangements to take on a small quantity of coal from the steamer Storm Bird, as there was insufficient on board to complete the voyage to Westport. While on board the Stormbird, Souter met with the harbour master, Captain Holford, who advised him of the Kawaroa Reef, which extended to the outer mooring buoy, but added that it had plenty of water covering the end of it. By that evening the weather had sufficiently abated and the Tasmanian Maid and Stormbird both left the landing on parallel courses at around 8.30pm on 16 January. Tasmanian Maid set a course to the west of Stormbird and despite the Admiralty chart showing a clear course, the vessel struck the reef around 8.45pm.

As soon as the Tasmanian Maid struck the signal guns and steam whistle were sounded and the engines were put into reverse. The stricken paddle steamer was able to crawl back 100 yards towards the anchorage and the shore before the iron hull filled with water and became completely unmanageable. Meanwhile the whistle had alerted Captain Holford on shore who launched rescue boats to assist. Upon arriving they found that the majority of the crew and passengers had already been loaded into the ship's boats. The Tasmanian Maid sank within ten minutes of hitting the reef. All 19 of the crew and passengers were rescued, although Captain Souter and the first mate were still on board salvaging potatoes when the vessel sank, bow first beneath them.

The crew and passengers were taken into the cargo boat and delivered safely ashore. Some of the crew went back to salvage floating debris. An attempt to salvage the vessel was thwarted by heavy seas on the days following which broke the vessel apart.

Resident Magistrate's Court inquiry (18 January 1868)

The court of inquiry was held on the 18 January 1868 before J. Flight, W.S. Atkinson and H.R. Richmond.

William Souter gave evidence that he had put into New Plymouth to shelter from bad weather, when he left it was low tide with a moderate breeze from the SSW. He had on board the Admiralty chart of Captain Stokes which he considered showed a free passage and was therefore in hindsight incorrect. The Tasmanian Maid had not been in the charge of a pilot, but Souter had taken depth measurements on the way out every two minutes, and believed that as the harbour was buoyed there was no danger. Souter had an exemption from piloting in most ports as a result of his experience in Hokitika, but did not have an exemption for New Plymouth. The vessel had been fully manned, nothing was defective, and it was not overloaded.

John Holford maintained that he had watched both vessels leave the anchorage, and thought that the Tasmanian Maid was near to the reef, but would probably clear it. Holford considered that Stormbird had steered NNW and Tasmanian Maid had steered closer to the reef on a WNW course which had not been safe in his opinion. Holford agreed with Souter that the Admiralty chart was in error, but noted there were sailing directions of Captain Drury published in the New Zealand Pilot which advised that the reef should be given a berth of a mile. The reef had been buoyed previously, but as they were always being lost, it was decided to leave them off.

William Edwards who had been at the helm gave evidence similar to Captain Souter. He noted the forepart of the steamer had struck and that the engines had at once been put in reverse, allowing them to come in about 100 yards towards the shore before sinking. His course had been to keeping her head 1 ½ miles from the Sugar Loaf Islands. The log book of the Tasmanian Maid had unfortunately not been saved.

The court of inquiry found Captain Souter was to blame for steering too close to the shore. The vessel was valued at £3000 and the cargo at £600, but as he had been the sole owner and master of the vessel, which at the time was uninsured, there does not appear to have been any further action against him.

Physical Description

The Tasmanian Maid was a side wheeled paddle steamer of 83 tons gross, 59 tons net register with dimensions: length 108.9ft., beam 15.7ft., depth 7.4ft. It had two 32 nominal horsepower Burnett & Thompson engines with a light draft of 4ft. 6in. and was rigged as a Schooner.

The wreck site lies approximately 300 metres from the shore on the NE extent of the Kawaroa Reef, at New Plymouth in approximately 8-10 metres of water, in an area comprising exposed reef and cobbles ranging in size from pebbles to boulders. It was found by members of the New Plymouth Underwater Club in 1976, and has since been recorded in the New Zealand Archaeological Association Site Recording Scheme as P19/248. The site appears to have largely reached equilibrium, and has changed little in appearance over the last 20 or 30 years.

Presently the most part of the wreck site is scattered across approximately 50 metres of reef, and comprises the remains of the paddle wheels, now collapsed and lying flat on the seabed, the engine, numerous pipes and fittings, hull plates, frames and a section of the rudder. The boiler has collapsed since the site was first relocated, and a stem post has been reported in the vicinity but subsequent attempts to relocate it have proved unsuccessful. It is quite possible that this is a component of one of the other wrecks known to have been lost on the Kawaroa Reef, such as the brig Star of Mersey which wrecked in 1886. Other vessels lost on the Kawaroa Reef include schooners Queen of Perth (1864), and Eclipse (1865).

Despite the site being underwater, the site still possesses important archaeological values. Of the well over 2 000 documented shipwrecks in New Zealand waters, over 1 200 occurred prior to 1900, and are protected by the archaeological provisions of the Historic Places Act 1993. Shipwrecks from this period (1860s) can be considered nationally rare as a site type, and shipwrecks associated with the New Zealand Wars can be considered rarer still.

Other vessels associated with the New Zealand Wars known to have been wrecked or abandoned in New Zealand waters include the PS Pioneer (wrecked at Manukau Heads in 1866), the PS Avon (renamed Clyde and wrecked at Croisilles Harbour 1886), the HMS Orpheus (wrecked at Manukau Heads in 1863), the PS Sturt (wrecked at Waimakariki River mouth in 1870), the PS Gundagai (wrecked at Patea in 1866), the HMS Caroline (renamed Ruby and wrecked at Cape Jackson in 1879), and the PS Alexandra (wrecked at Pukearuhe in 1865). Hulked, abandoned, or broken up vessels associated with the New Zealand Wars include the PS Rangiriri (abandoned in Hamilton in 1889), the PS Koheroa (broken up in the Waikato River c.1865), the Prince Alfred (converted into a hulk in Otago harbour in 1884 and burnt to the waterline in Careys Bay c.1900), and the Armed Constabulary Boats scuttled in Lake Waikaremoana in 1869. Components of some of these vessels have been preserved as monuments such as the turrets of the PS Pioneer at Mercer and Ngaruawahia, and the hull of the PS Rangiriri lifted from the Waikato River and preserved in the adjacent Memorial Park. Of the remaining vessels listed above only locations of the Prince Alfred, Alexandra and Sandfly have been located in modern times and documented.

The site is part of a wider historic landscape which included the Huatoki landing associated with the roadstead port prior to 1881. There have been several reported shipwrecks on the Kawaroa Reef, on account of its close proximity to the landing. Also recorded archaeologically in this area are anchors believed to have been used as a mooring for visiting vessels. To the west is the breakwater port of Taranaki which was established in the 1880s partly to counter New Plymouth's negative reputation as a roadstead port, and to provide a safe all-weather berth for coastal shipping. Beyond the port are the Sugar Loaf Islands which were used by visiting vessels seeking shelter when the roadstead was considered unsafe.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1856 -
Constructed at Richardson Duck & Co. Stockton, England.

1860 -
Sustained damage to sponson beam while taking on coal from Airedale

1862 -
Stranded in the Wairau River and subsequently sold to Auckland consortium.

1863 -
Purchased by the colonial government, armoured and fitted with two Armstrong guns and renamed HMS Sandfly.

1863 -
Galvanised wire stretched between stanchions along bulwarks and fitted with flax stuff mattresses to protect against musket fire

1865 -
Completely overhauled at Evans Bay slip, Wellington

1865 -
Decommissioned from military service and refitted as a passenger and cargo vessel

1866 -
Completely overhauled at Fraser and Tinne's shipyard, Auckland

1867 -
Starboard bulwarks carried away in rough seas at Fox River

1867 -
Struck the boiler from the wreck of the New Zealand at Hokitika and beached for repairs

1867 -
Overhauled and refitted at Onehunga.

1868 -
Wrecked on Kawarau Reef, New Plymouth.

Construction Details

Iron hulled, side wheeled paddle steamer. Fitted with two 32 nominal horsepower Burnett and Thompson engines. Schooner rigged.

Public NZAA Number


Completion Date

19th February 2010

Report Written By

Andy Dodd

Information Sources

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR)

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives

Return of Wreck 1868: E6: 18

Waitangi Tribunal

Waitangi Tribunal Report,

The Taranaki Report: Kaupapa Tuatahi, accessed 25 May 2009.

De Jardine, 1984

M. De Jardine, Shipwrecks on and off the Taranaki Coast. De Jardine, New Plymouth, 1984

Ingram, 2007

C Ingram, New Zealand shipwrecks: over 200 years of disasters at sea. [8th edition rev. and updated by Diggle, L, Diggle E. and K. Gordon 2007] Hachette Livre, Auckland, 2007 [1936]

Locker-Lampson, 1994

S. Locker-Lampson and I. Francis. The Wreck Book. Rediscovered New Zealand Shipwrecks. Halycon Press, Auckland, 1994.

New Zealand Statute

New Zealand Statute

Waikato Raupatu Claims Settlement Act 1995

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central Region Office.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.