Tiritiri Matangi lighthouse is situated on Tiritiri Island in the Hauraki Gulf. It marks the approach to Auckland Harbour some 28 kilometres to the south.
Location: latitude 36°36' south, longitude 174°54' east
Elevation: 91 metres above sea level
Construction: cast iron tower
Tower height: 21 metres
Light configuration: modern rotating beacon
Light flash character: white light flashing once every 15 seconds
Power source: batteries charged by solar panels
Range: 18 nautical miles (33 kilometres)
Date light first lit: 1865
Tiritiri Matangi is the oldest lighthouse still in operation in New Zealand. It was also the first lighthouse to be built by the Government.
Construction of the lighthouse was very difficult and cost £5,747. It took 4 months to dig down through 3 metres of thick, boggy, clay-like mud to reach ground that was hard enough to build on.
Building materials for the lighthouse were shipped to the island and then carted in sledges by bullocks over the slippery banks to reach the construction site. Despite the challenges of construction, the original tower is still standing. The light itself, however, has undergone many changes.
The light was first lit on 1 January 1865.
When the fixed light was lit on the first day of 1865, it was fuelled by colza oil. It was later modified to burn paraffin oil. In 1916 the light was again modified, this time to burn kerosene.
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In 1882 a red glass pane was fitted inside the lantern to throw a red light over Flat Rock near Kawau Island. This was removed in 1922 when an automatic light was installed on Flat Rock.
In 1925 the light was replaced with an automatic acetylene-burning revolving light. The keepers were withdrawn that same year.
During the 1930s the Tiritiri Matangi light was fitted with a radio beacon, and in 1947 the keepers returned to the station.
In 1955 the light was converted from oil to diesel-generated electricity. In 1956 the light was again replaced, this time with a new xenon light of 11 million candle power. With a visibility of 58 miles it was one of the most powerful lighthouses in the world at the time. The new light was a private donation from Auckland businessman and yachtsman, Sir Ernest Davis.
In 1966 the light was changed to mains electricity supplied from a 5 kilometre long underwater power cable.
The station was fully automated and the last keeper was withdrawn in 1984.
In 2002 the light assembly was replaced with a modern rotating light beacon which was installed within the original lighthouse. This light is fitted with a 50 watt tungsten halogen bulb.
The new light is powered from battery banks charged by solar panels.
Tiritiri Matangi was a particularly busy light station. As one keeper wrote in the 1960s, "on Tiritiri we had a constant passing parade to prove our use."
The proximity to the mainland and the constant passing of vessels made Tiritiri Matangi a popular posting. It was especially popular when the service intervals for the lighthouse station were reduced from 3 monthly to fortnightly.
The last keeper to be withdrawn from the island had the privilege of becoming the island’s first conservation officer because the island became an open wildlife sanctuary.
Tiritiri Matangi Lighthouse is accessible to the public. There is no public access to enter the lighthouse.
Tiritiri Matangi Island is a wildlife sanctuary administered by the Department of Conservation and is a popular day trip from Auckland.