Centre Island Lighthouse

Centre Island Lighthouse marks the dangerous western approach to Foveaux Strait between New Zealand’s South Island and Stewart Island.

Location: latitude 46°28′ south, longitude 176°51′ east
Elevation: 81 metres above sea level
Construction: wooden tower
Tower height: 12 metres
Light configuration: 50 watt rotating beacon
Light flash character: white light with red sector flashing once every 15 seconds
Power source: batteries charged by solar panels
Range: 19 nautical miles (35 kilometres)
Date light first lit: 1878
Automated: 1987
Demanned: 1987

Work began on the Centre Island Lighthouse in 1877, and the light was first lit in September 1878. Kauri was brought across from the mainland to construct the tower.

Centre Island lighthouse

Centre Island lighthouse. Photo: Maritime NZ

The light station was originally home to three keepers and their families. In the mid-1950s when diesel-generated electricity was introduced to power the light it was dropped back to two keepers. By 1977 only one keeper was stationed at the lighthouse.

Centre Island Lighthouse remained a one keeper station until the light was automated in 1987.

During World War Two, coastwatchers were stationed on Centre Island and equipped with confiscated ham radio equipment:

Consequent on the need for coastwatching communications, was the need to silence and control other non-essential radio traffic. The first emergency regulations, passed in 1939, five months before the war started, prohibited radio receiving station licensees from recording or publishing information gained from the airwaves. With ten days of the state of emergency being declared on 1 Sept, some amateur radio hams were losing their equipment ‘for the duration.’ Messrs Hazlett and Sutton Invercargill both lost their sets because they continued to use emergency corps callsigns ZL4EF and ZL4GX respectively. Their sets went to Army use on Centre Island in Foveaux Strait as callsigns ‘RFP’ and ‘RFM’, codenamed ‘Jako’ and ‘Cato’.

– Cooke, Peter (2000). Defending New Zealand : ramparts on the sea 1840-1950s. Wellington, NZ: Defence of New Zealand Study Group. pp 660-661

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