13 August 2021

Maritime treasure preserved in Wynyard Quarter

Maritime treasure preserved in Wynyard Quarter

​The history of Wynyard Quarter is unique, and the uses of the area have transformed quite dramatically over the last 100 years.

Despite its ever-changing landscape, from under water - to industrial use - to public space, the one thing that has stayed constant is its seafaring past and link to the Waitematā.

A significant piece of Auckland’s maritime history, located in Wynyard Quarter, is the Percy Vos Boat Shed. Synonymous with the craft of wooden boatbuilding, the shed was established on the current Hamer Street site in 1937 and stands proud in the same spot to this day.

Percy Vos was an expert master craftsman in both design and construction of wooden boats, and he passed on this skill to his apprentices. When Percy Vos died in 1972, his passing marked the end of commercial wooden boat building in New Zealand, and in 1994 his boat yard closed for good.

Between 1994 and 2018 the shed was not maintained and began to deteriorate. To avoid losing this important maritime treasure forever, from 2018 – 2020, Eke Panuku Development Auckland worked to restore the shed back to its original condition.

Eke Panuku project manager Jeanine McMullien worked on the restoration with Matthews & Matthews Architecture, Legacy Construction, Mitchell Vranjes Structural Engineers and PHC services.

“An important part of this project was maintaining the original integrity and feel of the building. This included retaining and reusing as much original material as possible throughout the restoration,” she said. “The kauri flooring in the upstairs office is all original, as well as features such as the kiln and ceiling trusses.”

The decision to restore the Percy Vos Shed delivers on one of Eke Panuku’s key objectives; maintaining an authentic working waterfront. A focus and goal of the 2012 Waterfront Plan is that amidst urban regeneration, the waterfront will continue to function as a regional centre for marinas and marine industries, with the strong historical and cultural character of the area retained.

Now the Percy Vos Boat Shed is restored, the New Zealand Maritime Museum will take over the lease and manage the site. “The refurbished Percy Vos Boat Shed will deliver a working boatyard, one where people can smell and touch the wood, and see how boats were built,” said New Zealand Maritime Museum Director Vincent Lipanovich. “The great joy of the shed is that we have an opportunity to move past the idea of preserving our history just as an object, but rather as a place to practice and share a set of skills that has been central to the marine industry for our city and country.”

Percy’s philosophy was to share his knowledge and skills on to “any young man who had the will to learn.” This philosophy will be carried on by the New Zealand Maritime Museum, which, in the future, will open the Percy Vos Boat Shed to the public and display an interactive showcase of wooden boat building in Wynyard Quarter.

On 12 August 2021 a celebration was held at the Percy Vos Boat Shed to recognise the history and importance of the maritime landmark, and to thank those who have been a part of the journey to date. Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, Eke Panuku Chief Executive David Rankin and New Zealand Maritime Museum Director Vincent Lipanovich spoke on the evening. It was attended by Percy Vos’s family members, the Percy Vos Charitable Trust, members from the Waitematā Local Board, Councillors, Council whānau and ex Waterfront Auckland board members, to name a few. It was a fitting occasion to celebrate the achievement of so many, over many years of perseverance and hard work.

“This has been a long-term project that could not have been achieved without the hard work and commitment of all stakeholders involved, many of whom are with us tonight,” concluded Mayor Goff in his speech, “It’s a fantastic achievement to restore this iconic building to its place of pride on our waterfront.”

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