The ‘Taioma’ was built in 1944. Originally called the ‘Empire Jane’, she had a coal fired boiler (later converted to oil) and a steam driven engine. During WW2 she supported British operations and was used for salvage and rescue duties during the Normandy landings.
In August 1947, the ‘Empire Jane’ was purchased by the Union Steamship Company and renamed ‘Taioma’. The next 30 years saw her in service as a harbour tug in Wellington. She was again used for rescue duties when the ‘Wahine’ foundered in 1967.
In April 1975 ‘Taioma’ was sold to British Petroleum NZ Ltd. Then in July 1978 she was sold to Sir Robert Owens for $2.00. In what was the heaviest load to be transported in New Zealand at that time, Sir Robert moved the tug to the Tauranga Historic Village Museum, where she was open to the public for approximately 16 years.
The ‘Taioma Reef Society’ – consisting largely of Mount Underwater Club members – was formed at that time, with the aim of sinking the tug as an artificial reef off Motiti Island in the Bay of Plenty.
After many months of hard work on the part of a few individuals, Resource Consent was eventually obtained in late 1999.
In another mammoth transportation undertaking, ‘Taioma’ was moved from the Village to the 600 tonne slipway on the night of 11 March 2000. One week later, on March 19, she returned to the sea and was sunk off Motiti Island.
Today ‘Taioma’ sits in 27 metres of water in an upright position. She made the transition from wreck to artificial reef very quickly. Numerous holes in the hull made her a safe dive for many years; however caution is advised around the deteriorating structure of the wreck.
We have been privileged to have watched ‘Taioma’s’ transformation since she was sunk. Viz isn’t always that great, but a mooring buoy makes finding her very easy, and being a small tug, it’s impossible to get lost.
‘Taioma’ is a great dive, full of life and colour. The ocean is slowly claiming her, but she will continue to be a lovely dive for many years to come.