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Moeraki (Katiki Point) (1878)


The North Otago port of Moeraki was established for the whale oil trade of the 1840's, but the trade declined and the port lost it's dominance to it's northern neighbour Oamaru thirty three kilometres away. 1

In 1837 19 4 the Sydney Packet ran aground and was Otago's first shipwreck. 17

During the lighthouse survey of 1874, the Luna arrived on Thursday February 19 at 6:00 a.m.  A railway has been built out onto a jetty for shipping the Kakanui stone. Captain R. Johnson surveyed a headland as a possible site for a lighthouse.  269

Captain Johnson  reported to the Commissioner of Customs in 1874, "vessels trading between Port Chalmers and the Northern ports pass very close to this part of the coast, and vessels bound to and from Oamaru and Timaru specially have to go very near the Fish Reef. Here, therefore, a coastal light is seriously needed, and I am of the opinion that a light should be erected as soon as possible."  4

In 1876 the Marine Department decided to build a costal light at Katiki Point, south of Moeraki for the safety of the shipping trade between Port Chambers, Oamaru and Lyttelton. Also the farming community had increased port traffic in the area. The Oamaru authorities were put out over Moeraki being chosen as a costal light as they had hoped their own light would be upgraded. They were also ordered  to change their harbour light from white to red which sealed it's fate of never being a costal light. See Cape Wanbrow  2

Construction of the lighthouse commenced in 1876 but was delayed by bad weather. Just before the light was to be lit a severe storm struck and shook the tower so violently the lamp glass broke. The lamp was replaced and the wooden tower had to be strengthened before the light was lit in April 22  91 , 1878. 1

Cost to  build £4288.  91



Exhibition of Fixed White Light on the Moeraki Peninsula, and alteration of Color of Lights on Cape Wanbrow and Oamaru Breakwater. 

Customs Department (Marine Branch) Wellington, 19th March, 1878. Notice is hereby given that on and after the evening of Monday, the 22nd day of April next, a light will be exhibited from a Lighthouse which has been erected on the southern, point of the Moeraki Peninsula, on the East Coast of the Middle Island, the characteristics of which are as follows: The tower is 28ft in height, built of wood and painted white. The light will be a fixed white light of the third order, visible all round as far as the land will allow. The light will be elevated about 170 ft above the level of the sea, and, allowing 15ft for the height of the eye, will be seen at a distance of 19 nautical miles in clear weather, and at lesser distances according to the state of the atmosphere. On the same night on which the Moeraki Light is exhibited, the fixed white light on Cape Wanbrow, Oamaru, will be altered to Red, and the fixed red light on the end of the breakwater to green. This green light will not, however, be exhibited during bad weather, when the danger lights (two white horizontal with a red light between them) are shown from the flagstaff. J. Ballance.

Grey River Argus, Volume XXI, Issue 3001, 28 March 1878, Page 2


Wooden beams were added later to prop the lighthouse against the severe winds during storms. 17

The Moeraki Port suffered a final blow when the feeder railway line was closed a year later. However the settlement remained making Moeraki one of the least isolated stations. 2

The station had two keepers each with their own two bedroom house. 1

With the presence of a school in the small town of Moeraki, the station was desirable for keepers with child who could attend the local school. 2

By the 1970's there was only one keeper at the station and he was withdrawn in 1975. 1

Until December 2005, the light was powered by mains electricity with a diesel generator backup using the original lantern. 1 A new LED beacon was installed on the balcony of the lighthouse. The original light is still in place today. The new beacon is power by mains electricity backed up by battery power in the event of a failure. The light is monitored remotely from Maritime New Zealand’s Wellington office. 1



The Moeraki lighthouse has along with others been featured on New Zealand postal stamps issued by the Government Life Insurance Office. 

Part of the lighthouse series that was released in 1969 when New Zealand changed to decimal currency, the Moeraki stamp had a value of 1/2 cents. 

The stamps in the series were, Moeraki  1/2/ cent,  Puysegur Point 2 1/2 cents, Baring Head 3 cents, Cape Egmont 4 cents and Dog Island 15 cents.


Stamp Web Sites




From Hwy 1,  turn into the Moeraki township just south of the boulders. Just before the town, turn right onto Lighthouse Road. Drive 7km on a sealed/gravel road to the lighthouse. The Katiki Point Historic Reserve is administered by the Department of Conservation. The reserve andlighthouse can be reached on foot from the car park on Lighthouse Road.

For a map of the area click here


Island South
Province Otago
Location Otago
Number K4360
Date Commissioned 22 April, 1878 1
Date Decommissioned
Automated 1975 1
Latitude 45° 24' South 1
Longitude 170° 52' East 1
Elevation Above Sea Level 52m 1     58m 11
Height 8m 1 
Character white light flashing once every 12 seconds 1 
Range 18 N. miles (33 km) (old light)  10 N miles (18 kilometres) (new light) 1 
Construction White wooden tower
Converted Kerosene To Diesel 1943 4
Converted Diesel To Mains Electricity
Present Tower Original.
Date Visited 2 January, 2000


Principal Keeper From To
  1st lit April 22, 1878  
James William Johnson  22 December 27, 1888  22
Patrick Henaghan  22 December 27, 1888  22 c 1894  22
Andreas Fremming Stewart Sandager  80 December,1893  80 July 1894  80
Charles Edward Johnston  22  July, 1894  22  July 11, 1898  22  (Retired due to bad health)  22
Norman Simpson  197 September, 1898  197 February 1, 1903  (Retired)  197
Denis Quinn  22 January, 1912  22   


Assistant Keeper (1st) From To
  1st lit April 22, 1878
John Frederick Rayner  80  81 February 2, 1878  80  81  July 1, 1882  81       August, 1882  80  
James William Nicholson  22 November 7, 1879  22 December 11, 1879  22
Robert Tait  22   (Probationary)  22 September 27, 1882   22   March 31, 1883   22
Robert Tait  22 April 1, 1883   22 April 20, 1884  22     (Services dispensed with due to ill health)   22 
Thomas Joseph Cox  22 January 14, 1888  22 January 14, 1889  22
Andreas Fremming Stewart Sandager  80 February, 1889  80 December, 1893  80                                    (Promoted to Principal Keeper) 
Gideon J Semmens  22   (Probationary)  22 December, 1893   22   June 4, 1894   22
Gideon J Semmens  22 June 5, 1894   22 October 3, 1894  22 
Louis Thompson  22 April, 1898  22 c  July, 1900  22



Additional Sources:

91Star , Issue 4872, 10 February 1894, Page 6. South Island Lighthouses



197. Norman Simpson (Gayle Dickison, Nov 4 2011)

269j. Wellington Independent, Volume XXIX, Issue 4041, 4 March 1874, Page 2 (Chapter 3)


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Text and photographs. Copyright © 1999-2013 Mark Phillips. All rights reserved.

If anyone has any information on this light please contact me.

Last Updated: April 15th, 2012