KiwiRail remembers the Wahine

06 April 2018 11:11AM

An Interislander ferry will sound its horn to mark the time the Wahine struck Barrett Reef and another will form the backdrop to a flotilla on Wellington Harbour, as KiwiRail helps commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the Wahine tragedy.

KiwiRail is a key sponsor of this year’s Wahine 50th commemorations, which will take place in Wellington on 10 April.


“The rail ferry Aramoana, which was part of what is now the Interislander fleet, played a role in rescuing passengers from the Union Steam Ship Company’s Wahine. Crew from Aramoana bravely volunteered to man lifeboats in the rough seas and rescue passengers and crew from the sinking ferry,” says KiwiRail Chief Executive Peter Reidy.


“KiwiRail and Interislander wanted to help commemorate this event as it’s important to recognise the lives that were lost and saved, the brave rescuers involved and the impact it has had on the maritime industry.


“The Wahine disaster helped shape maritime safety systems in New Zealand, and changed the way ferries operate on the Cook Strait.


“Today, we have better designed ships, improved  bridge management systems, state of the art  weather forecasting, comprehensive seafarer training and stricter regulations, all of which mean sailing on the Cook Strait is a much safer experience for customers and crew  than it was 50 years ago.


“The Wahine disaster also changed the way New Zealand responds to disasters and gave rise to organisations such as the Life Flight rescue helicopter service, which Interislander supports.


“We are honoured to help commemorate this important event in New Zealand’s history.”


As part of the 50th anniversary commemorations in Wellington on 10 April, the Interislander ferry Aratere will sail past during the Dawn Service at Eastbourne. It will sound its horn at 6.41am, the time the Wahine struck Barrett Reef. A wreath will be thrown from the deck of the ferry to mark the occasion.


In the afternoon, the Interislander ferry Kaiarahi will sit as the backdrop to a flotilla steam-past of around 40 boats in Wellington harbour (including some which took part in the Wahine rescue 50 years ago).


The full programme of events for 10 April is as follows:


6.30am: Dawn Service at the Wahine mast memorial – Eastbourne

From 8.30am: Eastbourne Remembers – a Wahine display of student works, photographs, and memorabilia, Muritai School

7.30am – 8.30am: Songs They Sang – Wellington Railway Station (the Wellington Community Choir performs)

10.00am – 5.00pm: Memories at the Museum – Wellington Museum, Queen’s Wharf

11.30am – 4.30pm: The ‘Wahine 50 – P.S. Are You Prepared’ display – Shed 6, Wellington waterfront

11.30am – 12pm: New Zealand Remembers – Wahine Mast Memorial, Frank Kitts Park, Wellington (Orpheus Choir performs)

12pm – 12.45pm The Flotilla Steam-Past Review – past the Wahine Mast Memorial (40+ vessels, some involved in the 1968 rescue)

3.30pm – 5.00pm Seatoun Remembers – Wahine display and afternoon tea at Seatoun School

5.30pm The annual NZSAR Awards ceremony (invitation only) in Shed 6 on Wellington’s waterfront