Venture's loss to become Cook Strait's gain

STRIPPED BACK: Wellington harbour ranger Grant Nalder with wood from the King Kong boat.
STRIPPED BACK: Wellington harbour ranger Grant Nalder with wood from the King Kong boat.

A watery grave beckons the Manuia, the ship used in Sir Peter Jackson's King Kong film, in Cook Strait early next month.

A Greater Wellington regional council team is removing material from the ship at Miramar Wharf yesterday in preparation for the sinking.

Harbourmaster Mike Pryce said one of the conditions of the proposed sinking was ridding the ship of all such materials.

"As part of this process wooden hatchboards have been lifted off the cargo hold and placed ashore."

Mr Pryce has sent four rusting hulks 1.7 kilometres to the bottom of Cook Strait 24km south of Cape Palliser in the past eight years. They were the former trawlers Sarfaq, Atlantic Elizabeth, Szap8 and James Cook. The Manuia had operated as a former tuna fishing vessel before being fitted out for filming of King Kong in March 2005.

During filming the boat started taking on water off Kapiti and the crew abandoned ship. The scenes never made it into the movie.

Sir Peter then sold the ship to a Wellington property developer who planned to use it as the centrepiece for a proposed waterfront aquarium.

The plan foundered when Wellington City Council supported a rival aquarium proposal on the capital's south coast. For the past four years the rusting hulk has been tied up at Miramar Wharf.

Mr Pryce said the Manuia would be towed to its final resting place in Cook Strait by a Wellington Harbour tug before being sunk.

The cost of the sinking would be covered by regional council ratepayers, he said.

Explosive charges were used to help sink the F69 former frigate Wellington 400 metres off Houghton Bay in November 2005.

The former frigate was torn apart by heavy seas shortly after it was scuttled in 26 metres of water.

This prompted critics of the sinking to say that soon nothing would be left of the ship. But Splash Gordon dive shop manager Lisa Geismar said yesterday that the wreck had moved little in the past three years.

"The front section of the ship is about 50m further out into the bay than the back section. The back section has split up into two sections. It's all pretty stable at the moment."

The Dominion Post