Barge boat out of lake for survey

The Minaret Station barge's pusher boat this week at Waterfall Creek, where it is undergoing routine maintenance work as part of its first out-of-water survey in 18 years. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
The Minaret Station barge's pusher boat this week at Waterfall Creek, where it is undergoing routine maintenance work as part of its first out-of-water survey in 18 years. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
For the first time since its launch in Lake Wanaka almost 18 years ago, the pusher boat for the Minaret Station barge was taken out of the water this week to be surveyed.

The 15m by 6m, 65-tonne vessel has attracted plenty of attention from the public since being transferred to the lake shore at Waterfall Creek on Tuesday, via a purpose-built 16 tonne trailer. The barge itself - the largest vessel to have plied the waters of Lake Wanaka at 50m long, 10m wide, and weighing 200 tonnes - is moored a few metres away, waiting for its motorised companion to be given a clean bill of health.

Minaret Station farmer Jonathan Wallis said the pusher boat required out-of-water surveys every four years. However, until now, it had operated on exemptions. Survey requirements were met using divers and ultrasound.

This week had been a ''prudent time'' for it to come out of the water, and with its survey and routine maintenance work now complete, the pusher boat would be reattached to the barge today to guide it back to the station, Mr Wallis said.

The boat would be taken out of the lake again in a couple of months for more significant alterations which would ''make it more suitable for a rough Lake Wanaka on a nor'west day''.

The out-of-water survey had been a major exercise and ''a significant capital undertaking'', Mr Wallis said.

''To be honest, it was a bit nerve-racking but it was quite exciting ... you're doing something that's never been done, so you've got to rely on what the engineers have advised and I take my hat off to all involved.''

The vessel was bought in 1995 by Mr Wallis' father, Sir Tim Wallis, as an ex-gravel barge from the Clyde Dam project. After being moved from the Clutha River, it was reassembled at Waterfall Creek by Bob Oldham, amid much controversy over the use of public land for its reconstruction.

It was launched on September 1995 and since then, has been an essential part of Minaret's operations, ferrying equipment and stock trucks to and from the station at the head of Lake Wanaka.

It can carry 1000 tonnes, or six fully laden truck and trailer units, and operates for about 400 hours a year. When off-duty, it is usually moored in Snag Bay on Minaret Station, although it was used to carry cars between Camp Creek and the head of the lake when the road washed out in 1998 and more recently, it carted machinery and building materials for the construction of a new public pontoon on Pigeon Island.

It has been a launching pad for fireworks during local celebrations and helicopters ferrying competitors in past World Heli Challenge events.

-lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz