The Akaroa lighthouse was situated on Banks Peninsula on the eastern head of the Akaroa Harbour.
Location: Latitude 43º54′ South, Longitude 172º59′ East Elevation: 82 metres above sea level Construction: Wooden Tower Tower height: 8.5 metres Light configuration: N/A Light flash character: N/A Power source: Diesel Range: 23 nautical miles Date light first lit: 1880 Decommissioned: 1977
History of Akaroa Lighthouse
During the lighthouse survey of 1874 on board the Luna, John Blackett, Marine Engineer and Captain Robert Johnson, Nautical Advisor selected the Akaroa Heads as a possible site for a lighthouse. At the time, there was a good timber trade out of the port and Akaroa was considered likely to be a major port or even a principal navy base. It was also known for its many shipwrecks since at least 25 ships had already wrecked in the area. The first recorded being the Atlantic which was wrecked in 1839, fortunately with no loss of life.
On 21 January 1875, the Akaroa Heads was chosen as suitable lighthouse site. Two years later, in March 1877 the Marine Engineer marked out the site and the lantern was ordered from Europe.
The New Zealand Government initially wanted the cost of construction shared between themselves and the Canterbury Provincial Council. The Provincial Council declined to provide any money for the project, however, before any further negotiations could be made, the Provincial Governments were dissolved under the Abolition Of Provinces Act of 1876 so the New Zealand Government bore the full cost of construction.
Construction begun on 23 April, 1878 on a site just to the east of a small inlet called Haylocks that ran inland about 200 yards. First a road was blasted out of solid rock up to the lighthouse site. The road, 500 metres long, took 10 months to build.
On 21 February 1879, a landing stage and derrick were built from Kauri timber to unload supplies, with the derrick towering 70 feet above the high water line. Then on 7 March, 1879, Black Brothers commenced assembly of the wooden lighthouse structure which had been pre-cut in the UK and shipped to New Zealand aboard the Duke Of Argyle.
The lens was manufactured in France. The mechanism was manufactured in Scotland.
Due to the sometimes harsh southerly winds, construction was slow with one storm completely demolishing the half standing structure. In another storm on 30 March 1879, the construction overseer, Mr. William Black, was found dead from exposure while riding on horseback the10km trip from the site to the town.
The tower is a six-sided Victorian structure with four levels and is 12.5 metres high and 5.49 metres wide at the base, the frame is of Australian hardwood with linings and weather boards of New Zealand Kauri. The walls are double skinned and filled 2/3rds high with ballast to weigh the structure down, preventing it from being blown off the cliff. The dome is copper and the flagpole is Oregon timber.
The light was first lit on 1 January 1880 and stood 270 feet above sea level.
In 1977, the last keeper was withdrawn and the old lighthouse was closed. A new replacement tower was built with an automatic light.