Lyttelton–Wellington ferry service ends

15 September 1976

Lyttelton crowd farewells the Rangatira on its last ferry crossing (ATL, EP/1976/3383/31-F)

The Rangatira arrived in Wellington from Lyttelton for the last time, bringing to an end more than 80 years of regular passenger ferry services between the two ports.

The TEV (twin-screw, turbo-electric vessel) Rangatira, a 9387-ton roll-on roll-off ship, had entered service in 1972 as a replacement for the ill-fated Wahine, which had sunk with heavy loss of life in Wellington Harbour on 10 April 1968.

But the Rangatira came too late. By the mid-1970s most New Zealanders preferred to travel between the islands by aeroplane or, if they had cars, aboard the more convenient Picton­–Wellington road/rail ferries. The Union Steam Ship Company withdrew from the Lyttelton–Wellington route in 1974, and although the Ministry of Transport kept the Rangatira running for another two years, the end of the service was only a matter of time.

The Rangatira served as a British troopship during the 1982 Falklands War. After several renamings, and much time laid up, the ship was scrapped in Turkey in 2005.