Pouto Lighthouse

Pouto Peninsula, New Zealand | C.1884

Photo Credit: Marina Weishaupt

Among the shifting sands of the Pouto Peninsula, New Zealand’s oldest wooden lighthouse retains its watch over the Tasman Sea. Constructed of timber from nearby ancient kauri forests, the Pouto Lighthouse – also known as the Kaipara North Head Lighthouse – has kept watch over the peninsula for over 100 years.

Before the foundation of the Lighthouse was ever laid out, the Peninsula was inhabited by the indigenous Maori tribe for thousands of years. To this day, relics of civilization that pre-date even the Maori have been found. In 1840, England formally annexed New Zealand as a permanent settlement, and within fifty years, the Lighthouse was erected.

Built in 1884, the Lighthouse was designed by John Blackett, an influential engineer who had developed a program of lighthouses for the New Zealand colony in the early 1860s. This program resulted in a series of lighthouses being built throughout the North and South Islands; the Pouto Lighthouse was the last to be built during this period.

Aside from Blackett’s program, the catalyst for the Pouto Lighthouse was the enormous amount of shipwrecks occurring off the treacherous Kaipara bar. As New Zealand’s kauri timber trade took off in the 1860s, the number of ships coming through the harbor increased. So many ships wrecked that the beaches surrounding the Lighthouse are now known as The Graveyard and the Valley of Wrecks -which holds the remains of 150 shipwrecks.

During the 1940s, the original lantern was replaced and the Kaipara was closed as a port of entry for trade. Within a decade, the Lighthouse was inactive and eventually fell into neglect. In the 1970s, the Pouto community pushed for its preservation and the Lighthouse was restored once again.

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