Iconic Kewpie tour boat makes history with first female skipper

Tauranga’s historic Kewpie tourism boat has a new owner, and – for the first time in her history – a female skipper.

Amy Neale purchased Kewpie after working aboard as a crew member for over two years. Neale is also Tauranga’s first female skipper to captain a tourism boat.

“I’m proud to charter new waters for women in Tauranga’s tourism industry, and to make history for Kewpie. I love sharing her colourful past with my guests,” said Neale.

Kewpie’s past stretches back to a different time in women’s history in New Zealand. She was named after one of New Zealand’s most popular tourism guides, Ted Cubitt. Cubitt’s nickname evolved to Cupid, and eventually to Kewpie.

In 1953, A. E. Fuller and Sons, now known as the Fullers Group Limited, named a boat after Cubitt in recognition of his 20 years of service. Built in native kauri timber, the Kewpie was destined to charm guests in honour of her namesake.

Now, Kewpie resides in a different bay, but she still delights the same hordes of tourists.

“Kewpie has been an icon of Tauranga since she arrived in 2004 and I’m thrilled to continue welcoming manuhiri, our visitors, onboard in Ted Cubitt’s name. Maybe I’ll even inspire a future female skipper or ocean lover,” said Neale.

Tourism Bay of Plenty Chief Executive, Kristin Dunne, said that the timing of Kewpie’s purchase is symbiotically close to the 127th celebration of New Zealand’s Suffrage Day.

“19 September is a day in New Zealanders’ calendars to commemorate being the first nation in the world to grant women’s right to vote and is a reminder to celebrate the progress of women in New Zealand,” said Dunne.

“We know that women have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19-related job losses and we are proud to support a strong cohort of female tourism operators in Te Moananui ā Toi, the Coastal Bay of Plenty region.”

Statistics New Zealand reported in August 2020 that the number of women working in key tourism industries dropped more than eight percent in the June 2020 quarter compared with the same time last year.

Dunne referenced Porina McLeod who took over stand-up paddle boarding business East Coast Paddler in 2016 to share Tauranga Moana’s cultural stories; Pip and Jo Coombes who left corporate lives in the United Kingdom to establish Waihī Beach’s sustainably-minded Surf Shack Eatery in 2016; Amy Kemeys and Becks Clarke of event specialist business The Makers; Hinewai McManus from Te Urewera Treks; and Paula Beilby, owner of Te Ara Tourism, who has created a new Tauranga e-bike tour.

Visit www.kewpiecruises.co.nz to find out more.

This story is part of TIA's #TourismChampions campaign. View more inspirational stories here