Wanaka Terrace is a cul-de-sac in Bell Block, one road back from the beach front. It is named after a vessel which ran aground a few hundred metres from the street itself.

The S.S.Wanaka was built for the Union Steam Ship company in 1876 by Thos. Wingate & Co., Whiteinch, Scotland. The 493-ton steamship drew up alongside the recently built New Plymouth breakwater for the first time on 22 March 1884. It was the first of the company’s vessels to berth at the port and the event was marked by a short ceremony and speeches in front of a crowd of 400 to 500 people.

The Wanaka plied its trade uneventfully for the next seven years until it left on what was to be its final voyage from Onehunga on the afternoon of 1 April 1891. On board was mail, cargo and eight passengers. Captained by the well-respected James Meades, the Wanaka made steady progress toward New Plymouth. Just after 3.30 a.m., perhaps disoriented by thick fog and haze, the captain’s order to steer “hard to port” had calamitous consequences.  

As dawn broke the Wanaka could be seen stuck fast on the Puketapu Reef. All the passengers and crew were safely rescued, with most of the cargo also being recovered. After a lengthy enquiry Captain Meades was found to have made an ‘error of judgement’ and was asked to pay the costs of the enquiry. Although he retained his captain’s certificate, the strict rules of the Union Steam Ship Company required his employment to be terminated.   

Efforts to re-float the steamer were not successful and the remnants of the hull were finally blasted apart some two years later. All that remains of the Wanaka is the boiler, visible at low tide from Bell Block Beach.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

Related Information


S.S. Wanaka Wreck (Te Rangi Aoao Nunui story)


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