Auckland's historic Kestrel vessel sinks

Peter Meecham/

Very little of the historic Kestrel remains visible after it sank in Auckland Harbour overnight.

Auckland's historic Kestrel vessel has sunk at its berth in Wynyard Wharf, leaving only the top of its mast and some floating debris visible.

Luke Henshall, spokesman for Auckland Council organisation Panuku Development Auckland, confirmed the 111-year-old ferry had sunk overnight.

"It's a great pity for a vessel like this to sink so unexpectedly," Henshall said.

The remains of the  historic ferry the Kestrel sunk at it's berth at Wynyard Quarter, on Auckland's waterfront.

The remains of the historic ferry the Kestrel sunk at it's berth at Wynyard Quarter, on Auckland's waterfront.

Auckland Councillor Chris Darby tweeted about the incident early Tuesday morning.

READ MORE: Kestrel thrown a lifeline

"Ferry flotsam visible on the Waitemata from my morning ferry following the sudden sinking of the historic Kestrel at its berth overnight."

Flotsam around the wreck

Flotsam around the wreck

 "I take the ferry just about every morning, and I was on the Stanley Bay ferry this morning and a message came on over the intercom saying 'we just need to slow dow a bit to make way for the debris from the overnight sinking of the Kestrel'," Darby said.

The Kestrel was berthed at Wynyard Wharf and Darby said there were small pieces of debris off the Bledisloe Wharf and a larger item off Princes Wharf.

Debris around the Wynyard wharf

Debris around the Wynyard wharf

"Any Devonport resident will know about the Kestrel and its history ploughing up and down the Waitemata harbour - it's knitted into the history of Devonport.

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"From the sounds of things, it's in a condition that its not really recoverable," said Darby.

Darby, who worked closely with the Kestrel restoration trust, said something catastrophic may have happened.

Only the mast and flotsam Auckland's Kestrel vessel is visible.

Only the mast and flotsam Auckland's Kestrel vessel is visible.

"I understand that the trust had float monitors in the [Kestrel] vessel and they were actively monitored, so I suspect something catastrophic has happened because ordinarily the monitors would pick up any incremental change in water ingress."

No official details were available as to the cause of the sinking and the Waitemata harbourmaster is investigating.

Mike Alston, chairman of the the Kestrel Preservation Plan declined to comment, saying he wasn't taking calls as he was "busy with other things".

The historic Kestral sank in Auckland Harbour overnight.
NZPA/Wayne Drought

The historic Kestral sank in Auckland Harbour overnight.

Sarah Bloomfield, founding member of the Kestrel Preservation Society said the sinking is a tragedy and for those that remembered travelling on her: "she was such a beautiful way to get around the harbour."

"She was made out of Kauri you could trace back to the early days in New Zealand's history. She tells the story of the settlement of Auckland and New Zealand by extension.

Bloomfield was instrumental in bringing the Kestrel back to Auckland about six years ago from where it had been located in Tauranga.

"She is an older ​vessel and there were pumps on board. Had there been more funding, securing the hull was one of things that needed to be done as part of her restoration - to guard against something like this happening.

"I cynically remark now that now she's finally worthy of news," Bloomfield said.


The Kestrel was built in 1905 and is hailed by many as one of Auckland's most significant maritime icons. The vessel was built by Charles Bailey Jr at the site of the Tepid Baths, Auckland, and was launched on 14th December 1905.

According to the Kestrel Preservation website, "She was the ultimate Edwardian verandah gliding across the jewel of our harbour."

The Kestrel was the last of the big double-ended Waitemata Harbour Ferries still afloat.

Aucklanders have been sharing their memories of the Kestrel on social media.

The Kestrel moved slowly, so if it had just pulled away from the wharf you could jump aboard. My friend’s mother tells...

Posted by David Slack on  Monday, 7 March 2016

 - Stuff

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