Bulletin of the Australian Institute
for Maritime Archaeology, 15.1): pg7-10
The Maritime Archaeological Association of New
Zealand MAANZ (Inc.)
New Zealand has a legislative basis for the control and sponsoring
of maritime Archaeology. There is a serious lack of expertise
and facilities for an acceptable programme. There is a considerable
amateur interest in this work but it is ill-controlled and ill-directed.
If marine archaeology in New Zealand is to become a worth while
activity and study it will be necessary for the archaeological
community to achieve a profitable relationship with those divers
who are interested in wreck investigations, and in this the New
Zealand Historic Places Trust appears to have a key role to play
The Maritime Archaeological Association of New Zealand was formally
established in August 1989 as the result of a growing awareness
of the need to control and direct maritime archaeology in New Zealand.
In 1977, Jim McKinlay, Senior Archaeologist for the New Zealand
Historic Places Trust, spoke at the First Southern Hemisphere Conference
on Maritime Archaeology about the legislation in place in New Zealand
which affords protection to marine sites around the New Zealand
coast and inland waters (McKinlay, 1977). This legislation has remained
largely unchanged, however a greater respect and recognition of
the Treaty of Waitangi which is our founding document has emerged.
In McKinlay's summary, he said:
Around New Zealand there are over 2000 shipwrecks,
the first of which occurred in 1795. About 140 have been relocated.
These relocated wrecks have been subjected to commercial salvage
and raids by divers for the odd relic. Most of the artefacts that
have been removed have not been conserved properly and are now rapidly
deteriorating and their relevance to the wreck has been lost. It
was through our concern over the loss of these artefacts that led
Jack Fry Conservation Officer for the National Museum in Wellington,
Paddy Driver and myself, both divers, to hold a seminar on maritime
archaeology in October 1983.
One of the guest speakers at that seminar was Jim McKinlay: his
address remained largely unchanged to the one he gave in 1977. He
mentioned the work of the New Zealand Archaeological Association
and their aims stating that those aims would serve admirably as
a charter for maritime archaeology in New Zealand.
Following the seminar in 1983, there was no attempt made to control
and direct maritime archaeology within New Zealand. It was not until
1988, when I was on holiday in Adelaide and met Paul Clark, Maritime
Archaeologist, (now at the Northern Territory Museum of Arts and
Sciences), that I discovered the existence of Associations throughout
Australia which have contributed to Australia's maritime history
by conducting underwater surveys, publishing data and putting on
displays. Having discovered just how important these Associations
are and the value of their work, 1 decided to establish an association
in New Zealand to control and direct maritime archaeology.
After arriving back in New Zealand I approached the Department of
Conservation and the Historic Places Trust and gained their support
for my proposal. I then wrote to all the dive clubs, dive schools
and dive shops throughout New Zealand to gauge and gain support
of the diving community. I also submitted an article for the New
Zealand community for the New Zealand Underwater Associations magazine,
through which I gained the support of the NZUA and a few divers.
Although I did not get many replies, I proceeded with my proposal.
I then contacted the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology
(AIMA), The Maritime Archaeology Association of Victoria (MAAV)
and the New Zealand Archaeological Association, told them of my
proposal and asked for copies of their constitutions which they
In July 1989 I called a meeting to establish an Association at which
an executive committee was elected and given the task of creating
a constitution. We combined sections from each of the constitutions
provided and created a constitution to suit New Zealand conditions.
At a meeting held in August 1989 the constitution was accepted and
the Maritime Archaeological Association of New Zealand was formed.
On 2nd February we became an incorporated society.
The objects of the Maritime Archaeological Association of New Zealand
a) To initiate and organise research into all aspects of maritime
archaeology in New Zealand and related in the Pacific.
b) To unite all persons engaged in or interested in maritime
archaeology, by holding conferences and meetings for the discussions
of maritime archaeological matters.
c) To publish and disseminate information on maritime archaeology
and on other matters related thereto, to particular interest groups
and to foster by these means community awareness in maritime archaeology,
historic shipwrecks, marine relics and sites.
d) To encourage and foster teaching and research in maritime
e) To record and catalogue wrecks, relics, artefacts and sites
of which it becomes aware of and to make this information available
to such fit and proper persons as it may approve to undertake research
into any activity or matter relative to maritime archaeology or
who wish to further the objects of the Association.
To encourage the use of public museums as the repositories for artefacts
and associated materials.
g) To encourage and wherever possible assist with the preservation
and conservation of shipwrecks, marine relics and artefacts and
to ensure that correct scientific procedures, materials and techniques
h) To offer assistance to maritime museums and to any project
relative to maritime archaeology being undertake by any organisation
providing that this assistance does not compromise the objects of
i) To affiliate with, establish relations with, become a member
of, co-operate with any Government Department, Association, Society,
body or combination of Associations, Societies or bodies in New
Zealand or elsewhere having objects in any way similar in whole
or part to the objects of this Association.
We has the support of the Department of Conservation (DOC), Historic
Places Trust (HPT), New Zealand Underwater Association (NZUA), New
Zealand Archaeological Association (NZAA) and the Maritime Division
of the Ministry of Transport and the Australian Institute for Maritime
Archaeology. The Department of Conservation and Historic Places
Trust has informed me that there are no maritime archaeologists
employed by them nor likely to be any in the future.
Although there are no maritime archaeologists in New Zealand, we
have experienced people associated with us. Members include:
Sarah Kenderdine, Graduate of the Curtin University Postgraduate
Diploma Course in Maritime Archaeology. Jack Fry, Conservation Officer,
National Museum, Wellington (retired).
Michael Price, Harbour Master, Wellington Regional Council.
Paddy Driver, Diver involved with the whale-boat in Lake
Brian Rowe, Chairman of the Scientific Committee, NZUA. Three Diving
Instructors, Divers experienced in wreck diving and non-divers.
Brian Sheppard, Senior Archaeologist for the Department of Conservation,
and one of our main supporters. Brian represents DOC, the HPT and
the NZAA when he attends any of our meetings. A great deal of thanks
is owed to him. Ken Scadden, Archivist, Wellington Maritime Museum.
Although the Association is in its infancy, I am sure, given the
support it has in New Zealand and in Australia it will be able to
achieve its aims and promote and protect New Zealand's maritime
Wreck salvage and survey
As already stated, around New Zealand there are over 2000 shipwrecks,
the first of which occurred in 1795. Around 140 of these have been
The legislation which protects these wrecks are:-
1. The Shipping and Seaman’s Act 1952.
2. The Antiquities Act 1975.
3 . The Historic Places Act 1980.
The wrecks protected by the Historic Places Act 1980 are the ones
with which our Association is primarily interested. Under this Act,
any vessel that sank over 100 years ago is automatically protected
but classification of each site is required. Of the 2000 wrecks,
1125 fall under the protection of the Act. Of these, about 68 have
been reported as relocated
Most divers disregard the legislation protecting wrecks in New Zealand
and help themselves to anything they find. Salvage rights can be
obtained through the Marine Division of the Ministry of Transport.
On application for salvage rights, the MOT directs the applicant
to locate the current owner of the wreck and cargo through Lloyds
of London. If the owner cannot be proved, salvage rights may
be given but with limitations. If the wreck is over 100 years old
the applicant is also directed to gain the permission from the Historic
So far there have been 21 applications to the HPT for permission
to recover artefacts from wrecks. Of these, there have only been
five reports or preliminary reports submitted to the HPT on the
work that has been done. The reports received are on the following
HMS Buffalo - Ship of 589 tons built in 1813 and wrecked
in Mercury Bay on 28 July 1840. A report has been received from
the Department of Environmental Planning in Adelaide.
Alcemene - Three masted corvette, wrecked off Kaipara on 3 June
1851. A report was received from Nole Hilliam, Director of the Dargaville
Salcombe Castle - Schooner of 1 15 tons built in 1846 and wrecked
at Maunganui Bluff on 15 December 1863. A report was received from
Martha - Barque of 251 tons built in 1805 which became a hulk
and was wrecked in Tauranga in 1882. A report was received from
During 1869, the Armed Constabulary under the Command of Colonel
Whitmore sent a force commanded by Lieutenant Herrick to lake Waikaremoana
in an attempt to quash Rebellion by a Maori tribe called the Hauhau
led by a chief called Te Kooti. On one side of the lake were the
Hauhau occupying two Pa sites and on the other was Herrick and his
men. Herrick decided it would be too difficult to attack the Pa
from around the lake and began the construction of two whale-boats
with which he hoped to construct a water assault. The whale-boats
took about six weeks to construct and were 40 feet (12 m) long with
a beam of 10 feet (3 m).
Herrick was about to begin his assault when on 19 June he received
a message from Whitmore stating that Te Kooti had fled to Taupo.
His job was to destroy the Pa sites to prevent reoccupation by Te
Kooti and the Hauhau. Before this was achieved however, the Stafford
Government was defeated. Sir Donald McLean the new Defence Minister
with a policy of pacification ordered Herrick to withdraw on 27
To prevent the whale-boats from falling into the hands of the Maori,
the whale-boats were taken out onto the lake filled with rocks and
sank. A survey was conducted in 1981 as an Army exercise commanded
by Major Tony Howell, and a report (Howell and Fry, 1981) was submitted
to the Historic Places Trust stating that one of the whale-boats
had been almost completely removed by divers over the years and
that the second boat was in poor condition and should be raised.
Jack Fry was invited to dive on the site and he also felt that the
remaining whale-boat should be raised and conserved but after attending
a conference on the conservation of waterlogged wood, he decided
that the expense was too prohibitive.
Other than the vessels I have mentioned, most of the other relocated
wrecks have been commercially salvaged. In New Zealand waters there
are not only wrecks of historical interest but also 'Treasure' ships.
General Grant - Full rigged ship of 1103 tons built in 1864.
It sank on 14 May 1886 at the Auckland Islands with a cargo of gold.
Although this vessel is protected by the HPT, it is being treated
as a commercial salvage not as an archaeological site. Several searches
for this wreck have been conducted but the wreck remains unfound.
Tasmania - Steel - screw steamer of 1265 tons built in 1892.
It sank on 29 July 1897 off Mahia. A passenger on this ship was
a jeweller named Isadore Jonah Rothschild. As part of his luggage,
he carried a suit-case full of jewels, which went to the bottom
of the ocean with the ship. This case was recovered by Kelly Tarlton
in 1975 (Tarlton, 1977).
Elingamite - Steel - screw steamship of 1675 tons built in 1887.
It sank on 9 November 1902 with a cargo of gold and silver coins,
half of which have been recovered.
Niagara - Steel - screw steamer of 7582 tons built in 1913.
She sank on 19 June 1940 off Bream Head after striking an enemy
mine. She was carrying a cargo of gold bars. All but five gold bars
were recovered shortly after the incident. Those five bars are still
in the wreck.
More important than these 'treasure' ships are the wrecks of historical
significance. For example, there is the possibility of there being
a 15th-century Portuguese or Spanish galleon off the north-west
coast of the North island. If the wreck is proved to be a 15th-century
galleon, then this may change New Zealand's history as we know it
First survey: Mahanga Bay
The site of a dismantled wharf in Mahanga Bay in Wellington Harbour
was the site of the Association's first survey. This site was proposed
as I had dived there before and knew that there were some remains
of the wharf, bottles and a variety of other artefacts which could
be recovered to give us some experience in conservation techniques.
The wharf lies in the, centre of a sheltered bay with a depth of
around 7.6m at high tide. This would enable us to dive in almost
any weather and gain experience in underwater survey techniques.
It was not until archival research of this site was begun (Churchill)
that it was realised that the wharf may have been built around 1885
to 1886(Public Work Files, PW231 118 and PW 2316, National Archives,
Wellington). This date coincides with the construction of Fort Ballance
which was constructed as part of Wellington Harbour's defences.
Fort Ballance is located on an isolated part of the coast and, at
the time of construction, road access was very poor. It is my belief
that the wharf was built prior to the fort, to supply building materials
for the fort's construction and later supply the fort with arms,
munitions and general supplies. The plans and contracts for the
wharf were apparently destroyed and the earliest date we have found
that mentions the wharf is 31 October 1887.This report states that
a vessel named Despatch damaged the wharf while trying to
Other dates located are:
1888 Vessel named Ellen Ballance damaged the wharf and the
Public Works Department (PWD) requested the owners of the vessel
to effect the repairs.
1905 PWD signed a contract with McKechnie and company, Wellington
contractor for extensions to the wharf.
1917 Electric lighting installed to the wharf.
1924 Request from the Defence Department to the PWD for the installation
of a tramline for the safe transfer of munitions from the wharf
to the fort.
Up until 1945 extensive works were carried out in the bay and on
By 1962 the wharf had fallen into a bad state of repair. Various
complaints were made as to the safety of the wharf and it was not
until a two-year-old boy fell through it that the decision was made
to dismantle the wharf. This was done by the Navy and the Army Department
using 609.6 m of Cortex and bulk explosives. The demolition was
completed on 16 October 1962.
As the wharf was in use in 1887, this brings the site of the wharf
under the protection of the Historic Places Trust. With this in
mind, a preliminary report was submitted to the Historic Places
Trust, Department of Conservation, Wellington Regional Council and
Raymond Ahipene-Mercer who represents the descendant of the last
Maori occupants of the area, to obtain permission to undertake an
underwater survey. The site has not yet been given an Historic Places
Trust classification, but we have gained permission to undertake
an underwater survey. From photographs of the wharf, we have been
able to estimate the size of the area to be surveyed. This will
be an area of 25 metres by 25 metres. A baseline will be set from
the remains of the wharf buttress and with the method known as 'trilateration'
we aim to locate each of the stumps of the piles. With these measurements
we will then have an accurate dimension for the wharf.
We hope to recover some of the copper sheathing which protects the
piles which may provide us with the manufacturer's name and the
date of manufacture. This information may then provide an accurate
date for the construction of the wharf. We also aim to recover samples
of the piles and wharf timbers to determine the identity and origin
of the timbers used in its construction.
All artefacts recovered from the site will be taken to the onsite
conservation laboratory, where each artefact will be logged, identified,
photographed and the 'first-aid' treatment started. On the completion
of each day the artefacts will be taken to our conservation laboratory
where a full conservation treatment will be started. Each artefact
recovered will be treated using the latest conservation techniques.
The conservation of the artefacts will be under the supervision
of Jack Fry, who, as previously stated, is a MAANZ member and is
the retired Conservation Officer of the National Museum Wellington.
Summary of the Mahanga Bay Wharf survey
The principle aims of the survey of the Mahanga Bay are to gain
practical experience in survey and conservation techniques; to measure
and date the wharf’s construction., and determine the identity and
origin of the timbers used in the construction. Further research
has yet to be done in the National Archives and at the Wellington
Maritime Museum where they are about to make their archives open
to the public.
On the completion of the underwater survey we will be writing a
comprehensive report which will be made available to the public
through libraries and when the artefacts have been conserved they
will be put on display.
Although the Maritime Archaeological Association of New Zealand
is in its infancy, we have the contacts in New Zealand and Australia
through which we will gain experience and be able to contribute
to New Zealand's maritime heritage.
Once New Zealanders can see the result of our efforts, I am sure
that we will gain their interest and support and more divers will
join our Association which will enable us to establish subgroups
throughout the county. We will then be in a position to control
and direct maritime archaeology in New Zealand, factors Jim McKinlay
said were lacking.
Howell, A. G., and Fry, L, 198 1, Te Maunutanga 0 Te Mgaro.
Government Print, Wellington, New Zealand.
Ingram. C.W.N., 1977. New Zealand Shipwrecks. A.H. &
A.W. Reed Ltd., Wellington, New Zealand.
Locker-Lampson, S. and Francis, I., The wreck book. Millwood
Press. Wellington, New Zealand.
McKinlay, J.R, 1977, The New Zealand Historic Places Trust and the
laws covering Marine Archaeology in New Zealand. In: Green JN. (ed.)
Papers from the First Southern Hemisphere Conference on Maritime
Archaeology. Australian Sports Publications, Melbourne.
Public Work Files, PW 231118 & PW 2316, National Archives, Wellington.
Tarlton, K., 1977, Salvage of Rothschild’s jewellery from the wreck
SS Tasmania 1897. In: Green, LN. (ed.) Papers from the
First Southern Hemisphere Conference Maritime Archaeology. Australian
Sports Publications, Melbourne: 53-60.