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A national heritage “treasure” of the seas has been towed along the Auckland waterfront to die the death of old boats.

The Rapaki, the steam-driven crane vessel that served in Lyttelton, the Middle East and the Pacific before retiring in Auckland, is being broken up at Wynyard Wharf.

Tim Hanna – the author of books on motorcycle speedster Burt Munro and motorcycle builder John Britten – said the scrapping of Rapaki, one of the world’s few remaining steam crane vessels, was an act of vandalism.

“It’s a taonga, a national treasure of tremendous significance,” said Hanna, a Lumsden publican.

He said he had been lucky enough to go on the Rapaki when it was fired up and the crane was moving.

“It was absolutely tremendous. It was such a powerful reminder of a time in our history when steam was obviously king … This country was built with steam.”

The New Zealand Maritime Museum at Auckland’s Hobson Wharf, where the Rapaki was moored as a static display and breakwater, opted to scrap it because of the high cost of maintenance.

It was towed to Titan Marine at Wynyard Wharf on Tuesday. Rapaki’s departure makes way for an America’s Cup development at Hobson Wharf.

“This has been a very difficult decision and one we did not take lightly,” said museum director Vincent Lipanovich.

“We are all disappointed. One has to face reality unfortunately in dealing with very very large objects like this.”

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