published March 2009

Wanganella and the Australian Trans-Tasman Liners

by Peter Plowman
THIS BOOK tells the story of the trans-Tasman shipping service from the days of the earliest steam ship
service to the liner Wanganella’s last voyage to New Zealand in 1963.
The only Australian company to maintain a service across the Tasman Sea was Huddart Parker, who
survived numerous attempts by the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand to drive them off the
route in the early days. Eventually the two agreed to share the route in several co-operative agreements.
Towards the end of 1892, James Huddart, one of the founders of Huddart, Parker, & Company Limited,
established a separate company, the New Zealand & Australasian Steamship Company, to operate a trans-
Tasman service. The Union Line retaliated by placing their best ships in direct competition with the newcomers,
and also started a rate war that forced the Australian company to withdraw in March 1893.
Despite this, Huddart Parker re-entered the Tasman Sea trade in November 1893. The first trans-Tasman
departure for Huddart Parker was taken by Tasmania, on 29 November 1893. The Union Line tried to stifle
the competition, but was up against a strong opponent able to ride out the fare wars, and instead of buckling
under the pressure, Huddart Parker added more vessels to the trade over the next seven years.
The first decade of the twentieth century would see both Huddart Parker and the Union Line introduced
new liners of increasing size on the Tasman trade. Although the two companies were not engaged in fare
wars any more, and operated their ships on a joint schedule, there was still considerable competition to
attract passengers. In January 1908 the brand new Ulimaroa was placed on the Tasman trade by Huddart
Parker, and would remain the mainstay of their Tasman operation for the next twenty years.
In 1932 Huddart Parker was actively seeking a new ship for the Tasman route, and purchased a brandnew
vessel, Achimota, which was renamed Wanganella. In World War II Wanganella served as a hospital ship, and it was not until January 1947 that the liner left Sydney for New Zealand again. The voyage almost ended in tragedy, when Wanganella ran aground on Barrett Reef at the entrance to Wellington Harbour, and remained
there for seventeen days. After being salvaged, the work of repairing the damage lasted almost two years, and it was not until December 1948 that Wanganella returned to service.
In 1961 Huddart Parker Limited ended their interest in the Tasman trade when the company was sold,
but Wanganella continued to operate to New Zealand for McIlwraith, McEacharn Limited.
In 1962, Wanganella was sold to Hang Fung Shipping, of Hong Kong, but in July 1963 was sold again, and
became a workers’ hostel at Doubtful Sound, in the South Island of New Zealand. Wanganella was sold again at the end of 1969, and on 5 June 1970 arrived at a shipbreaking yard in Taiwan.

PETER PLOWMAN lives in Sydney. He has written several maritime books, among the most recent of which are: Across the Sea to War, The Sitmar Liners, Ferry to Tasmania, Murray Darling Paddleboats, Australian Migrant
Ships 1946–1977, The Chandris Liners, Australian Cruise Ships and Coast to Coast

188 pages in A4 format, 128 black and white photos, 24 in colour with 7 maps and deck plans.  Softcover
Weight: 760 grams
ISBN 9781877418099 
RRP $NZ 45