Q-West Boat Builders New Zealand

Wellington police maritime unit to get new 'Lizzy'

After patrolling Wellington Harbour for nearly 20 years, the police launch Lady Elizabeth III is to be replaced with a more powerful $3.5 million boat.

The new aluminium Lady Elizabeth IV will have the same generic design as the Auckland police launch Deodar III, with modifications for Wellington's heavier weather conditions.

Police Minister Judith Collins said Lady Elizabeth III, known as "Lizzy", began patrolling the harbour in 1989 and had become an institution, but was now beyond its "mechanical life expectancy".

Lady Elizabeth III has 13,700 hours on the clock with a mechanical life of 12,500 hours. The replacement will be the ninth police boat to patrol Wellington waters.

"Many people owe their lives to her and her brave crew ... but the time has come to replace her with a more modern vessel that will enable the police to roam further, respond to emergencies faster and be safer for those working on board," Ms Collins said.

The 18.5-metre-long catamaran will be larger than Lady Liz III with a travelling speed of 56kmh (30 knots) at 62 per cent power.

Q West Boatbuilders, of Wanganui, is expected to start work on the boat in July, but it will probably be 18 months before it is in the water.

Maritime unit head Senior Sergeant John Bryant said the new boat was long overdue.

"Lizzy III has served us well, but she's 20 years' old and showing some pretty serious fatigue."

Maritime police have recently been using a smaller boat to save Lizzy for larger search and rescue jobs, usually in Cook Strait. On average, Lizzy has taken part in more than 600 incidents and 400 patrols each year.

Memorable rescues include that of Wellington diver Rob Hewitt, who was found off Mana Island after 70 hours in the water in 2006.

In 2000, Lizzy battled winds topping 95kmh to rescue the 11-metre yacht Satchmo, and was also involved in searches after the 1999 disappearance of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope in the Marlborough Sounds.

Its role had also changed, with today's boat used in multi-agency missions, such as Fisheries Ministry patrols, Mr Bryant said. "She wasn't designed for that. She was designed ... to be a search and rescue vessel."

ELIZABETHS' REIGN:

* The Lady Elizabeth III was launched in 1989 as a replacement for the Lady Elizabeth II, which sank at the entrance to Wellington Harbour in 1986. Two of the four crew were killed.

* Previous maritime policing boats have included Antipodes, a 10.3-metre pleasure launch used briefly in 1941; Tuna, a Harbour Board boat badly damaged in 1971; and Kaikoura, hired by police in August 1971.

* The original Lady Elizabeth was a 12-metre cabin cruiser built for Blenheim man Fred Musgrove and named after his grandmother. The Defence Ministry received the boat under the Wartime Shipping Requisitioning Emergency Regulations and put it into Wellington police service on September 6, 1941. It was withdrawn in 1971 as it was no longer seaworthy.

* The Lady Elizabeth III is 17.3 metres long and capable of 22 knots (40kmh). It was designed by an Upper Hutt naval architect, built in Nelson and began service on December 23, 1989.

* It cost $2.3 million, of which the public donated $280,000.

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