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A Brief History of the New Zealand Boat Show

The New Zealand Boat Show has been held, under a variety of names, at what is now the ASB Showgrounds, every year since 1956, when it was first held as part of the 1956 Easter Show.

The decision to incorporate a boat show into the Easter Show followed an article in the February 1955 issue of Seaspray (the predominant marine magazine of the time), suggesting there was a need for a first class boat show in Auckland.

The initial show worked really well and, as a result, was promoted under its own name: The Auckland Easter Show Boat Show from 1957 until 1960.

Perhaps because of the success of these early boat shows, the Outboard Boating Club decided to run its own display of boats in the spring of 1958 and 1959, in the Farmers car park, and in 1960, at Campbell Motors.

The organisers of the two shows then got together and, along with the Auckland Water Ski Club and the R Class Squadron, ran the first Auckland Boat and Caravan Show in October 1961.

The following year, 1962, saw the introduction of the first of the famous boat show “lakes.” Based in the large naturally concave arena in front of the historic grandstand, the lake was an integral part of the boat show over the following decades. During this time it was home to a huge range of entertainment: from hilarious water ski shows and fiercely-fought powerboat races to a pirate ship giving rides; from performing chimpanzees to a helicopter dumping monsoon buckets of water into the cockpit of an apparently-unsinkable runabout.

In an era of little television and no professional sport, the boat show quickly became a must-see event and, as a result, stayed open for up to 11 days at a time! In 1965, the Showgrounds added an impressive new pavilion, offering an additional 20,000 sq ft (about 2000 sg m) of display space. It was a timely addition as the boat show was now a national event, rather than just an Auckland one, attracting boat builders and marine businesses from all over the country.

Despite its national appeal, the show continued to go by a variety of names during the 1960s and ‘70s. From 1963 until 1968 it was known as the Boat and Caravan Show; in 1969 and 1970 as the Auckland Boat Show; from 1971 until 1975 as the Auckland Boat and Caravan Show and then, in 1976 and 1977, as the Auckland Boat Show again.

In 1978, the name New Zealand National Boat Show was tried for a year, before the “National” was dropped and the event became the New Zealand Boat Show. Although the show was again briefly known as the Auckland Boat Show in 1981 and the New Zealand National Boat Show in 1983, the name New Zealand Boat Show soon found favour and was retained right through until 2001 when the name of principal sponsor Hutchwilco was added.

The show has been known as the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show since 2001 and looks likely to remain that way until at least 2024.

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