In 1981, Steve McLay started what was then a little engineering company in one of New Zealand’s smallest and most remote towns. Four decades later, he was one of the country’s most respected aluminium boat manufacturers, with a huge range of high-quality models and a dealership network that stretches all the way to Sweden.
After leaving school at just 15 to work as a fitter and welder, Steve founded Toko Engineering in the small Otago town of Milton. Seven years later he built his first boat, in steel. Shortly after, at a customer’s request, he designed and built his first aluminium boat.
Toko Engineering became Toko Engineering & Marine then McLay Boats. Today McLay Boats employs 28 full and part time staff and produces a range of aluminium boats that starts at just 4.2 metres and goes all the way up to 11 metres.
Steve is a keen supporter of the apprenticeship system, often taking on two new ones each year. He was the first employer in New Zealand to take on a female boat builder apprentice.
An innovator who is constantly improving his designs, he started building amphibious boats in 2018, using the Tectrax system. Determined that the amphibious wheels would not affect his boats’ performance, Steve designed a retractable door to enclose the front wheel and cavities at the stern for the rear wheels to disappear into. The result is that absolutely no part of the wheels is exposed while the boat is underway.
A constant exhibitor at the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show for over 30 years, Steve is also a very staunch supporter of his local community. He has been involved in the Milton Rotary for 15 years, twice as president; has helped the Rotary Tramping Club raise thousands of dollars for the community and youth; is a strong supporter and sponsor of the Milton Boat Club; has been a volunteer for 13 years at the local prison and is now a voluntary Chaplin one day a week.
Steve also has a very strong “need for speed” and greatly enjoys racing his special Corvette, which regularly proves capable of completing a 10-second quarter-mile!
Steve McLay has long been and remains a significant and incredibly well-respected contributor to the New Zealand marine industry and to his beloved Milton community.