Records dating back to 1917 show there was a police presence on the waterfront from at least that time.
As the capital city of a young and developing nation, the bustling port was full of square riggers and other sailing ships of every description, but until 1941 the Wharf Police were pretty much land-based.
It wasn't until during WWII that the Police Launch Services was born.
The Lady Elizabeth police launches
Lady Elizabeth IV
In September 2010 Lady Elizabeth IV arrived to Wellington harbour. This 18.5m catamaran operates as a multi-agency patrol vessel, as Police team with staff from New Zealand Customs, Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Conservation. Built to a full coastal survey standard, her operational range is 450 nautical miles from the entrance of Wellington harbour.
The earlier Lady Elizabeth launches
The first Lady Elizabeth police launch was a 38-ft pleasure launch requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence under the Wartime Shiping Requisitioninig Emergency Regulations 1938 and put into Wellington police service on 6 September 1941. The launch was built and owned by Fred Musgrove in Picton, who named the launch Lady Elizabeth after his grandmother. Lady Elizabeth continued service into the 1950s and became well established with a permanent crew. In 1969 when she failed her survey, a replacement − Lady Elizabeth II − was sought.
Construction began on Lady Elizabeth II in early 1972 and she entered service in March 1973. The launch was a 49ft 6in triple-skin diagonally planed kauri boat with fibreglass cover, powered by twin V8 diesels and capable of 18 knots. Lady Elizabeth II was an excellent sea keeper and carried out many rescues. Sadly, on 2 July 1986 while on a training run, she capsized and sank at the entrance of Wellington Harbour and two of the four crew on board lost their lives - Constable Glen Hughes and Senior Sergeant Phil Ward.
Lady Elizabeth III was launched on 8 November 1989 with a primary focus on marine search and rescue She was designed by an Upper Hutt naval architect and purpose-built in Nelson and was 57ft long, 500hp GMV8 motor capable of 22 knots with self-righting capability. Often referred to as 'Lizzie' she was designed for a maximum working life of 20 years. After 21 years of invaluable service in Wellington's waters saving hundreds of lives over the years by her timely arrival (often in very turbulent seas), she reached the end of her service.
Other police launches used on Wellington waterfront
Antipodes: A 34ft pleasure launch used for a short time in 1941. One crew member described her excessive roll as 'the nearest thing to perpetual motion'.
Tuna: A harbour board boat used on loan for a short time until she was badly damaged on piloting duties in July 1971.
Kaikoura: A 35ft-long launch powered by a 100hp engine capable of 10 knots was hired by police in August 1971. She was restricted to harbour use only.
Ohorere: A 55ft boat on loan from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Kotare: A 27ft vessel, replaced Ohorere.