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Timaru Harbour (1878)


Photo Date: 2000

Photo Date: 2010, courtesy of David Miller


The town of Timaru was established in 1856 by the colonial Government. The port was created by building breakwaters which created a deep water port with the sand being washed north to form Caroline Bay. 10

Timaru harbour's earliest recorded lighthouse was possibly a tower built on top of a cottage in 1858. This lighthouse was shown on a chart before Pencarrow lighthouse was built. Little is known about this early light. 17

Other sources report the first beacon was  a tar barrel lit when a ship was expected. 10  In 1863 a more permanent light was erected on the cliff above the landing building. 10  

During the lighthouse survey of 1874, the Luna arrived on Tuesday February 17 at 10:30 a.m. It was noted that the lighthouse in Timaru was inadequate and a new light was needed. There was also talks on building a breakwater for the harbour similar to the one that was being built at Oamaru.  268

By the 1870's a proper lighthouse was required but the local authorities couldn't agree on whether to build a coastal light at Patiti Point, a site just north of the present Jack's Point lighthouse or to build a harbour light. The Canterbury Provincial Council approved £1000 for a light at Patiti Point but it was later agreed that a costal light was not required and they decided to build a harbour light at the site of the former cottage lighthouse on Le Cren Terrace (later known as The Terrace), near Port Signal Street. 10

The lighthouse was designed by John Blackett, marine engineer, using the native wood Kauri and tenders for construction were called for in June, 1876. But before the contract was let, the Timaru Harbour Board was formed in October, 1876 and the tenders were cancelled. The new harbour board wanted the construction to be of stone and further delays were experienced. Stone proved to be to expensive and construction of the lighthouse begun. The tower cost £259 and the keepers house £314 and was financed by the Canterbury Provincial Council. 18

The light was first lit on 1st July, 1878 and served Timaru as the main harbour light until March 1970 when a new port light was installed above Dashing Rocks. 10  

The light was originally fitted with a fixed kerosene light, this was replaced with gas in 1890. Later in 1920 an electric light was fitted. A flashing light was installed in 1948. 10  

In 1980 the lighthouse was restored by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and moved from it's original position at No. 7 The Terrace to a new site at Maori Park * and served as the rear leading beacon as part of a port entry navigation system that had been installed on Benvenue Cliffs in 1907. 10  

To make way for a new Aquatic Center, in November 2010 the lighthouse was moved again to Benvenue Ave, on the Benvenue Cliffs. 10  


*Following colonial settlement, under the terms of Kempís Deed, one of the reserves set aside for South Canterbury Maori in 1848-49 was a 20-acre site near Caroline Bay. Known as Reserve 884 (Opukuorakaitauheke or Upoko-o-Rakai-tauheke), a small area of this block was taken back in the early 1870s for the railway, and in the 1920s the Timaru Borough Council purchased the remainder. The main part of the former reserve, as purchased in the 1920s, was renamed Ataahua (beautiful place) by the borough, and the park there is known as Maori Park. 10  


Registered with the New Zealand Historical Trust

Register Number: 2044
Date Registered: December 11, 2003

Historic Place  - Category 2



From Hwy 1 in Timaru, take the Caroline Bay Road, turn on Te Weka Street, turn right onto Benvenue Avenue. 


Island South
Province Canterbury
Location Timaru
Date Commissioned July 1, 1878
Date Decommissioned 1970
Elevation Above Sea Level
Construction Wooden (Kauri) New Zealand Native Timber
Converted Kerosene To Diesel
Converted Diesel To Mains Electricity
Present Tower Not in use
Date Visited January 1, 2000


Principal Keeper From To


  1st lit, July 1, 1878  


Assistant Keeper (1st) From To


  1st lit, July 1, 1878  



Additional Sources:

268. Wellington Independent, Volume XXIX, Issue 4040, 3 March 1874, Page 3 (Chapter 2)



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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: January 14, 2013