History of the aluminum pontoon boat in New Zealand

Published online: Dec 07, 2010 News Patrick O'Sullivan - www.hawkesbaytoday.co.nz
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The old man wanted a boat and my mate wanted a boat and it just grew from there.Wayne McKinley, Backyard business started with a fishing boat for his father and another for a friend

They are ugly ducklings on land but swans in a choppy sea.

Wayne McKinley built his first pontoon-designed aluminium boat for a friend more than 30 years ago and set up his first boatbuilding yard soon after in Greenmeadows.

"The old man wanted a boat and my mate wanted a boat and it just grew from there," he said.

He chose a pontoon design for safety and practicality.

"Diver's kept putting knives through the rubber boats and they can sit right on the edge of a pontoon without tipping it over."

Mr McKinley was one of the first boat builders to pioneer the aluminium pontoon boat in New Zealand and now offered a full range of models from small trailer boats to offshore.

"Stabicraft and me have a bit of an argument over who was first with the pontoon design in New Zealand, we didn't know of each other then."

The buoyancy of the pontoons combined with the multi-chambered construction enabled the pontoon boats to claim virtually-unsinkable status.

Wayne's cousin Warren King was the company's first employee and today Senator employed a team of 17 between its manufacturing operation in Onekawa and their own sales yard in Ahuriri.

They supply a network of dealers throughout New Zealand and a couple of unsolicited orders had arrived from Australia.

"We are price competitive with Oz and we do more research and development work than they do."

They started building the conventionally designed boats because they were losing sales due to the pontoon's sometimes less than elegant appearance in the showroom.

"We've being doing a monohull for two years now and they're going well."

He said business had picked up recently but they have had a lean period.


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