Our History

Hydroslides in New Zealand – a very brief history

In the beginning…

New Zealand’s first commercial waterslide ride was a long wooden chute that rocketed riders down its 67-metre slope in flat-bottom boats, reaching speeds of up to 50 km/hr before aquaplaning across a man-made lake to a gentle stop. The location was Wonderland Park in Miramar, Wellington, and the year was 1907.

Fast forward 74 years to another ‘big splash’

The fibreglass tubes most Kiwis now affectionately refer to as ‘hydroslides’ arrived in New Zealand in the early 1980’s, when Christchurch-based entrepreneurs, Ian & Daphne Gamble, opened New Zealand’s first indoor hydroslides attraction at the QEII Park Pool, Christchurch. The year was 1981 and this was a 2-slide attraction, with riders travelling head-first on foam rubber mats, to exit into a small pool. These hydroslides were extraordinarily popular, breathing new life into a QEII pool complex that had remained largely unchanged, since being purpose-built for the 1974 Commonwealth Games. An iconic Christchurch attraction that would become loved by generations had arrived.

Legend has it that it was Daphne who first coined the term ‘hydroslide’ during a family dinner, and the name has stuck ever since. To this day, New Zealand is the only country in the world where waterslides are commonly referred to as ‘hydroslides’.

True Pioneers

Around the same time that Ian & Daphne were building their hydroslides at QEII, fibreglass waterslides were beginning to gain traction globally and a young Canadian KPMG accountant-turned-entrepreneur, Geoff Chutter, was building his first waterpark in Penticton, British Colombia. Penticton is a town of around 35,000 people in the Okanagan Valley, roughly a 4 ½ hour drive east from Vancouver.

There was little in the way of industry knowledge and support available in those early days; Geoff had to figure out waterslides for himself and in the process, he became a true pioneer today’s global industry. The market really took notice of Geoff’s Penticton waterpark, and Geoff soon received several approaches to build more waterparks.
While Ian & Daphne went on to build several more hydroslide attractions attached to aquatic centres around New Zealand (Dunedin, Nelson, Hamilton), Geoff had discovered his passion was for designing, engineering and manufacturing waterslides, rather than owning his own waterpark. He sold his Penticton waterpark in 1983, to concentrate on manufacturing waterslides for a growing global industry. During the 1980s more manufacturers entered the market with some, like WhiteWater West Industries, evolving into true global companies.
Click here for WhiteWater’s global history and heritage
Penticton, British Columbia, Canada


When it comes to hydroslides, the New Zealand market has two key limiting factors; climate and population. Most of our hydroslides are small-scale, 1 or 2 slide, indoor additions to municipal aquatic centres. By ‘indoor’, we mean that the slides start and finish inside the aquatic centres, while the actual flumes are usually outside the building envelopes.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Christchurch’s Cresta Composites and Timaru-based Aeromarine Industries, dominated the local New Zealand market in hydroslide design and manufacture. Both were well-known and respected composite manufacturers, but hydroslides were not their core business. The New Zealand market simply wasn’t big enough to support full-time specialist hydroslide manufacturing. From 1981 through to the early 2000s these two firms designed and installed somewhere around 30 hydroslide attractions throughout New Zealand, predominantly indoor attractions at aquatic centres.

This small number of projects split amongst 2 competitors, with the number of installations varying from year to year, resulted in a hydroslide design-and-build environment that focused upon the tried and true rather than the innovative, world-leading design that has been the hallmark of WhiteWater West Industries. Despite a promising early start, New Zealand designers and manufacturers were quickly left behind by their much larger overseas counterparts.
Cresta Hydroslides
‘Seamless’ Aeromarine hydroslides

The standard NZ package versus global innovation

Most of the 30 or so hydroslide installations that Cresta and Aeromarine completed between 1981 and the early 2000s were basic-level, enclosed body slides and a drive around New Zealand will confirm that there aren’t many points of differentiation amongst them; nearly all look much the same. Cresta’s slides are easy to identify, having standard flanged joints between sections, while Aeromarine’s were marketed as ‘seamless’, made in longer sections, that were instead joined together in-situ by a fibreglass wrap.
Rokko Island, Kobe, Japan
Both brands typically started from low platforms, delivering a low-level thrill experience, compared to what was being developed and installed overseas.

Globally, platforms had become higher, which immediately opened up the potential to make ride-experiences more varied and thrilling, while the exponentially larger and more competitive overseas market made it not only feasible, but an absolute necessity, to invest heavily in product development.

A good example that demonstrates this difference in scale and capabilities was Rokko Island, a WhiteWater West project completed in Kobe, Japan, in the early 1990s, with 50 slides running off a single, circular tower. That’s about the same number of waterslides in a single project, from a single tower, as the combined total of individual hydroslides installed by the 2 New Zealand manufacturers between 1981 and the early 2000s. Unfortunately, the Rokko Island waterpark was extensively damaged in the 1995 Kobe earthquake and had to be demolished. It was a remarkable achievement in precision design and manufacturing.
During the 1990s there were a few minor projects involving international manufacturers in New Zealand. For example, WhiteWater West installed a wave machine at Moana Pool in Dunedin and a small water toy at Pioneer Pool in Christchurch, but things were about to change!

Our story: A leaky roof brings WhiteWater to New Zealand

The catalyst, that would eventually lift our country’s standard of hydroslides and bring the first of WhiteWater’s significant installations in Aotearoa New Zealand, was an extremely embarrassing incident at the QEII Park pool complex in October, 1998. The combination of a heavy downpour and a leaking roof drenched the international guests and dignitaries, who were seated at tables alongside the 50m pool, during the formal ‘finals night’ dinner function for the IPC Swimming World Championships.

QEII Park was clearly aging, still largely unchanged from the 1974 Commonwealth Games, and its roof leaked badly.
The Christchurch City Council moved quickly to approve funding. QEII’s 50-metre competition-cum-leisure pool would soon make way for ‘Atlantis’, an extensively themed aquatic leisure recreational attraction with wave pool, lazy river and Minoan ship play feature. A new 50-metre competition pool would also be included by extending the building envelope eastward.

By this time, the 2 waterslides that Ian and Daphne had built were back under council ownership, nearly 20 years old and in need of repair. An internal Council report from 2003 noted that Council had been quoted a refurbishment cost of $420,000 back in 1999 and had decided instead to demolish them. Unfortunately, the budget for the ‘Atlantis Project’ did not allow for new hydroslides. Atlantis therefore opened without any hydroslides at all, but such was the popularity of the 2 original hydroslides, their absence was keenly felt and much talked about.

Against that backdrop, in early 2003, the Christchurch City Council evaluated its options and decided to seek commercial proposals for new hydroslides, to be privately owned and operated as a seamless addition to QEII Park, just as Ian’s and Daphne’s had been back in 1981.
Minoan ship play feature of Atlantis, QEII
Despite stiff competition, and without any prior experience of hydroslides construction or operating a hydroslides business, QEII Hydroslides Limited’s proposal for a 5-slide attraction nearly 500m total length, manufactured by WhiteWater West, was accepted by Council in 2004. It had the “Wow!” factor and an enormous ride capacity that would add real value to the ‘Atlantis’ experience.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest indoor hydroslides attraction opened to the public in July, 2005. Just like Ian and Daphne’s 1981 hydroslides, the new hydroslides were extraordinarily popular, attracting over 100,000 customers per year, until the Christchurch earthquake, in February, 2011, saw the end of the original QEII Park pool complex.
Atlantis circa 2008

A shining example of international-standard ride design and quality, QEII Park’s new 5-slide attraction was a quantum step-up from any other municipal hydroslides in Aotearoa New Zealand, at that time, and heralded the beginning of WhiteWater West’s arrival in the New Zealand market.

While, overall, Aotearoa New Zealand is clearly still many years behind the rest of the world, we finally had a significant hydroslides installation of international-standard, and the market again took notice.

In response to this market interest, QEII Hydroslides directors, Paul Jackman and Grant Brenton, formed a new separate company, Waterslides New Zealand Limited (later renamed WhiteWater New Zealand Limited) to sell and install WhiteWater West’s extensive product range in Aotearoa New Zealand.

WhiteWater New Zealand has now overseen the design and installation of several international-standard WhiteWater West projects in Aotearoa New Zealand with many more in the pipeline.


We are uniquely qualified, as long-term owner operators with a long-standing collaborative connection to the best in our business, to advise on the best hydroslide for your venue, as well as operational fundamentals, health and safety, sustainability, maintenance and future proofing.

Most importantly, we connect your project with the design and manufacturing expertise of WhiteWater West Industries; the world’s largest and most experienced hydroslide designer and manufacturer and a true pioneer of the global hydroslide industry….and it all started with a leaky roof!

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