The recent COVID lockdowns followed by an extremely harsh winter has resulted in a difficult three years for the dive industry. Coupled with ever-increasing compliance regulations, many charter companies have now disappeared, fallen victims to the impossible circumstances in which they were expected to operate in.
NZ Oceanic Charters: A New Collaboration
NZ Oceanic Charters have acquired Hawere, a wellloved vessel previously owned by Auckland University and moored in Omaha Harbour. NZ Oceanic Charters is a collaboration between three owners – Geoff Fraser, Mike Collins and Neil Bennett – enthusiasts who all come from different walks of life but have a common passion for the sea. Geoff owns and runs the international brokerage Seaboats, Neil is owner and operator of New Zealand Diving, and Mike just loves the water!
Addressing the Need for a Liveaboard in the Hauraki Gulf
In the time of the pandemic, they all witnessed the crash in the charter market, resulting in the lack of availability, and recognised the need for a liveaboard to be established in the Hauraki Gulf to cater for the New Zealand market. So, they formed a team together and took what many would consider a big gamble considering the climate and purchased Hawere to fill this need.
The team has already expanded since then with the inclusion of a new skipper, Wayne, who will be joined by two new internships from local colleges as they set out on their new careers on the high seas. The company is focusing on two main markets – marine research, where Hawere is already making inroads with several major projects already under her name and, of course, the recreational liveaboard market, where she can take clients on overnight adventures to the islands around the Gulf.
The Vessel: Hawere's Unique Features
A unique feature about the vessel is that she can fit into both markets extremely well, offering quality and comfort in accommodation, as dictated by recreational clients. As well as features required in a commercial aspect, such as hoists and winches, needed by the research market. It is very rare, indeed, to have this all on one vessel.
Did you know?
From sub-tropical reefs of the North Island to unique topography and temperate waters of the South Island, it would take a lifetime to discover all the secrets of diving in New Zealand.
Neil says: “The recreational market has presented a different challenge in that we are promoting the hire of the vessel to all dive centres and clubs across the country, as well as tour operators, so that they can effectively create their own brand or style of tours within the Hauraki Gulf. We are a charter operator and therefore Hawere is available to everyone.
Community Outreach and Internship Program
“It has also provided an opportunity for the team to give something back to the community by creating an internship programme, which trains and qualifies two students from local colleges as deck crew. This year’s lucky contenders have both come from Rodney College in Wellsford.
“The job opportunity will allow them to participate in a wide range of projects we have running with major corporations. Something that will give them a great blend of experiences to take forward.”
Operations, Refurbishment, and Accommodations
Currently Hawere is moored in Scotts Landing with operations generally taking place from Sandspit Harbour a short distance away from her original location. Hawere continues to operate within the Hauraki Gulf with a whole host of destinations to choose, from including Great and Little Barrier, the Mokohinau Islands, Hen and Chick Islands and, of course, the Poor Knights.
Did you know?
New Zealand is a year-round diving destination with December-May seeing water temperatures in the mid 20s.
The winter has not gone to waste, providing the opportunity to over-haul the vessel with a refit and refurbishment of many systems to ensure no interruptions to the summer operations that will soon take place.
The internal layout of Hawere is spacious, currently with bunk-style accommodation for six guests, with plans to increase this to eight. The galley is large with all the appliances you would expect of any modern kitchen. There is even a BBQ for those who wish to cook on the rear deck for that extra summer sensation! The upper-level cabin houses the crew quarters and the bridge.
Outside of the main customer quarters is the heads/ shower room with ample hot (very hot) water and a dry room which can be used for research or even delicate camera work – such a handy room to have away from the hustle and bustle of busy divers!
It is also good to know that there is plenty of 240v power to support customer requirements in a modern age. There is even a TV and video set up to review the day’s filming on the big screen.
Diving Facilities and Support Tender
When it comes to diving, Hawere is very self-sufficient with an onboard compressor and ample storage room for tanks or rebreathers. The deck area is very spacious with no need for divers to be on top of each other. A support tender comprising of a 3.5 metre RHIB is available to help divers on reef areas where the vessel can’t go. Handy to have after that long hard dive.
Hawere's Engine and Operational Range
Hawere is well equipped with two powerful Caterpillar 3126 engines, capable of providing a cruising speed of 19 knots and with approximately 2,000 litres of fuel, she has a large operational range too.
Did you know?
Though some of the best diving in New Zealand are wrecks, the marine life is excellent: dusky dolphins, albatross, New Zealand fur seals, and sperm whales can be spotted all year. The warmer waters of the North Island attract yearround schools of tropical and large fish.
The Hauraki Gulf: A Unique Diving Destination
What is so special about the Hauraki Gulf, what makes it so unique from the other areas of New Zealand? Well, with over a million hectares of sparkling blue waters dotted with emerald islands, the Hauraki Gulf offers countless water activities and island adventures – no wonder Lonely Planet named the area as the best experience in New Zealand.
The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is also New Zealand’s largest marine reserve, protecting the country’s precious marine and birdlife. The Hawere team aims to provide an unforgettable experience, heading out to see these beautiful animals such as whales and dolphins in their natural habitat. There is also the seasonal migration of hammerhead sharks too!
Liveaboard Tours and Destinations
Their tours take in several different destinations offering unique experiences at each of them. Broken into four select tours, these destinations consist of a blend of islands grouped in similar locations to reduce travel times. Each liveaboard trip is fully inclusive of food, accommodation on board and diving. Depending on individual’s dive profiles, up to four dives can be achieved a day, including the opportunity to experience a night dive.
Great Barrier Island – The Gulf’s largest island that offers a diverse range of marine species and several shipwrecks to dive. While the furthest away, it is one of the most popular destinations.
Mokohinau and Little Barrier Islands – They offer everything from stunning wall dives, pristine reefs and sharks! The destination for the hammerhead tours.
Hen and Chicken Islands – Lie halfway between Gt Barrier and the Poor Knights. This group of islands provide completely different experiences at each island location.
The Poor Knights Islands – This world-famous site was claimed to be one of the world’s top ten dive locations by Jacque Cousteau. A marine reserve all on its own, this destination never fails to deliver stunning diving.
Booking Information and Contact Details
Details can be seen on nzdiving, which will provide you an insight to each tour as currently offered by New Zealand Diving.
This article was originally published in Scuba Diver ANZ #52.