A 109-year-old steam ferry has been moved to a new home, ready for its next stage of restoration.

For the past nine years volunteers have been painstakingly restoring the kauri-hulled Minerva at Cobham Rd in central Kerikeri.

With the vessel now ready for the installation of twin steam engines and a custom-made boiler, it has been moved to a former building supplies shed in the Opua Industrial Estate.

Project manager John Clode said moving the Minerva, which is 20m long and weighs more than 20 tonnes without its engines, went almost without a hitch.


The trickiest parts were manoeuvring the boat transporter out of the Cobham Rd yard, which caused ''a bit of a realignment of the fence'', and through overhanging trees at the Bluff in Paihia.

The vessel, which had been protected with lengths of alkathene pipe, left Kerikeri just before 5am on Thursday and arrived unscathed at Opua about 5.45am.

The next challenge would be maintaining the project's momentum, Clode said.

The volunteers were anxious to keep going and public expectations had been raised, but the project's funding was increasingly stretched.

Meanwhile, also on Thursday, the Far North District Council approved a grant of $21,000 towards the project.

The money will come out of the $265,000 annual operational grant for the Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Cycle Trail Trust.

The funds will be used to ship a steam engine from North America. The Sisson engine, one of two which wil drive the Minerva, was originally built for a World War II minesweeper.

The cycle trail, the Minerva and the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway are being developed as an integrated tourist attraction. The three groups are understood to be making a joint funding application to the Provincial Growth Fund.