The Hurunui was the first ship to enter the new graving (or dry) dock in Ōhinehou Lyttelton at its opening on 3 January, 1883. She literally broke the ribbon as she entered the dock, witnessed by a crowd enthusiastic about the significant moment in Lyttelton's port development.
The dock opening was a grand affair including an extravagant banquet hosted by the Harbour Board to mark the important occasion. Coastal and trans-Tasman vessels made most use of the dock in the early years, while many foreign vessels continued to undergo maintenance in their home ports. The facilities popularity increased such that, although now much changed, it remains an essential element of port infrastructure and is in constant use.
The Hurunui itself was built in 1875 for the New Zealand Shipping Co and was an iron sailing ship weighing 1,054 tonnes. She was changed from being fullrigged to barque-rigged in 1890 and was sold to Russian owners in 1896, thenceforth being named Hermes. WW1 sealed her fate as she was sunk by a German submarine in 1915.