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Ponui Passage (1871)


Ponui Passage, Waitemata Harbour, Auckland, [ca 1940s]                             

Reference Number: PAColl-0077-04

Ponui Passage, Waitemata Harbour, Auckland. 

Photograph taken circa 1940s. Photographer unidentified.



Ponui Passage with the GMV (Government Motor Vessel) Stella, lighthouse tender built 1973 by Simms in Dunedin.

Photo courtesy of Richard Osborne (photo taken between 1981-89)


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One of two wave washed lighthouses built in New Zealand (the other is Bean Rock) the lighthouse has been demolished and replaced with a beacon.

Located at the east end of the Pauhenehene Spit, in the passage between Auckland habour and the Firth of Thames. Also known as Sandspit Passage light. 16

Balfour recommended a principal harbour light be erected on Bean Rock and a screw pile light be erected on a sand spit in Ponui Passage. But before the lighthouses could be built Balfour was drowned in a boating accident in Timaru Harbour in December, 1869. So the lighthouse was designed by engineer James Stewart  16  who incorporated Balfour’s design.  55

Stewart who arrived in New Zealand from Scotland in 1859, was appointed by the Marine Department to be Inspector of Steamers and Examiner of Engineers at Auckland in 1867.  He also designed Bean Rock and oversaw Manakau South Heads lighthouses.  55

The light was lit in 1871, and was built by James Heron at a accepted tender of £2300. 110

The light and lantern was manufactured by Chance Brothers, London, England. 10

In November, 1896, the schooner Huon Belle ran aground then hit the lighthouse damaging two iron piles and some lamp glass.  111

After Bean Rock had been successfully automated with a new acetylene light in 1912,  Ponui Passage light was automated in 1915  18  or 1916 16   long with Nelson Boulder Bank.

The dilapidated original cottage structure was moved in 1938 to the Chamberlin's farm on Ponui Island, and the lantern was relocated to the base platform. 16

The current solar-powered light replaced an earlier acetylene gas-powered light in 1984, and is still on the original 1871 screw pile foundation. 16

The lantern is now on loan to the Dockside Restaurant in Wellington. 16

The fifth order Fresnel lens, is now stored at the New Zealand National Maritime Museum in Auckland. 16



Approved to go automatic.

223. Dominion, Volume 7, Issue 2006, 13 March 1914, Page 8


PONUI PASSAGE LIGHT. On June 1. 1938, the Ponui Passage ligh (position, lat. S6deg 54mln .0 S., long. 176 de lOmln .9 E.) will be extinguished, and a tem porary light of the ordinary masthead oil lam] type, fixed at a relatively low level, of lesse arc and generally of limited visibility, will b exhibited. Further notice will be given whei the reconstruction of the main light has bee) completed


The Ponui Passage light in the Hauraki Gulf, in position" latl 36deg. 45min S., and long. ITadeg. lo.9min E. (approx.), has been reestablished in a now white wood and steel tower 24ft high, standing on a pile platform. The elevation has been reduced to 21ft, and the visibility is now 9 miles




Island North
Province Auckland
Location Hauraki Gulf
Date Commissioned 1871 a
Date Decommissioned
Automated 1915 18   1916 16
Elevation Above Sea Level
Height 19
Character Flash every 2 seconds, white or red depending on direction; range 7 (white) and 4 (red) nautical miles.
Construction White metal column on wooden piles.
Converted Kerosene To Diesel
Converted Diesel To Mains Electricity
Present Tower
Date Visited


Principal Keeper From To
  1st lit, 1871  
John Wheeler  22 May 13, 1881  22 c  February, 1888  22
J Marsh  111     (c 1896   )  111  
Alexander Connell  216   May, 1908  216  208     (Retired)  216  208
John W. Arthur  208 May, 1908  208  
James Lyon  22      (Assistant in Charge)  22  March, 1910  22  July 11, 1912  22 
Harold Edwin Conway  22  July 11, 1912  22   
  Automated (Keepers Withdrawn) 1915 18   1916 16



Additional Sources:


208. Evening Post, Volume LXXV, Issue 115, 15 May 1908, Page 6

216. Marlborough Express, Volume XLII, Issue 89, 14 April 1908, Page 3


230. New Zealand Herald, Volume VI, Issue 1630, 11 February 1869, Page 4

231. Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXVI, Issue 4029, 21 July 1870, Page 2

232. Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXVI, Issue 4049, 13 August 1870, Page 5

110a. Daily Southern Cross, 13 August 1870.

233. Thames Advertiser, Volume VII, Issue 1871, 22 July 1874, Page 3

234. New Zealand Herald, Volume XVIII, Issue 6019, 3 March 1881, Page 4

111. Thames Star, Volume XXVIII, Issue 8513, 18 November 1896, Page 4

235. Evening Post, Volume LXXII, Issue 73, 24 September 1906, Page 7


236. Otago Daily Times , Issue 16146, 7 August 1914, Page 4

eAuckland Star, Volume XLVII, Issue 19, 22 January 1916, Page 4

238. Evening Post, Volume CXII, Issue 10, 11 July 1931, Page 23

fEvening Post, Volume CXXV, Issue 116, 19 May 1938, Page 12

g. Evening Post, Volume CXXVI, Issue 49, 26 August 1938, Page 12



55. Anne Stewart Ball, 2007.



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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: December 12, 2009