Q1348 was one of 16 Harbour Defence Motor Launches (HDML) to be delivered to the RNZN in 1943-44. Commissioned on 14 March 1944, it joined the 125th ML Flotilla based in Auckland before being placed in operational reserve in late 1945. Commissioned for use by the Canterbury RNZNVR Division in August 1948, it was renumbered P3563 in early 1950 and commissioned as HMNZS Kuparu in March 1968. Kuparu ceased fisheries patrol duties in June 1975 when the Lake-class patrol boats entered service. Along with Manga, Haku and Koura, she was allocated to an RNZNVR Division for training. Initially at Auckland, Kuparu transferred to Lyttelton in 1976. With the new Inshore Patrol Craft entering service, she left Lyttelton in July 1983 for retirement, spending brief periods attached to Wellington and Auckland divisions along the way, until early 1985.
Kuparu was the ML in best condition of those remaining, and she was completely overhauled and attached to HMNZS Tamaki in July 1985 for seamanship training until she was replaced by HMNZS Kahu in May 1988. It was then intended to preserve the ML as a potential exhibit for the RNZN Museum. She was placed in a cradle on an unused portion of Calliope North wharf on 21 November 1989 and shrouded in a tarpaulin. When the end of the wharf was demolished in 1999, the vessel was moved to the North Yard, but it was only a temporary reprieve. With the establishment of a new museum that could display the vessel still some way off, the former Kuparu was sold in January 2002, almost 60 years after it had been built at the Ackerman Boat Works at Newport Beach, in southern Los Angeles, California.
After deteriorating in a storage yard at Helensville for some twelve years, Kuparu was ‘re-discovered’ in March 2017 by former RNZN stoker, Scott Perry, who has restored her to sea-going condition.
She is currently berthed at the Town Basin in Whangarei. Scott has done a magnificent restoration job and along with Paea, also in Whangarei, and Medusa in the UK, she is possibly one of only three MLs left In the world that have not been reconfigured to a pleasure craft.
(The restoration of Kuparu will be covered in a separate article at a later date. Incidentally, I was the last person to drive her while in the RNZN. Ed)