The history of Katiki Point Lighthouse
Moeraki was a busy port during the 1840s with the transportation of oil from nearby whaling stations. When the whaling industry declined, the port began to struggle. In time, Oamaru, which was directly linked to Dunedin and Christchurch by rail, became the preferred port for shipping and trade.
In 1876 the Marine Department decided to build a light at Katiki Point, to make it safer for ships that sailed past en route to Port Chalmers near Dunedin. This decision followed several accidents on the dangerous reefs around the area.
Construction of the lighthouse began in 1876, but was delayed because of bad weather. Just before the light was first lit the lighthouse was struck by a storm which shook the tower so violently the lamp glass broke. The light then had to be replaced and the tower strengthened before the light could finally be lit in 1878.
The station was automated, and the last keeper was withdrawn in 1975.
Operation of the Katiki Point light
In December 2005 the original light and associated equipment were replaced with an LED beacon 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 mains failure.
The light is monitored remotely from Maritime New Zealand’s Wellington office.
Life at Katiki Point light station
While shipping in and out of the port at Moeraki declined, the town was still as busy as ever, making this a favourite station for keepers. They had easy access to the local school and shops. The nearby railway meant keeper’s families could visit Dunedin and Christchurch. The keepers themselves could not leave the station for more than a couple of hours at a time however, unless they were on holiday leave.
Permission was required from the Marine Department before guests could stay at this, or any other, light station.
At Moeraki, there were two permanent keepers and their families, each with their own small, two-bedroom house.
A temporary keeper was often stationed at Moeraki, boarding a month at a time with each of the keepers. In 1940 the principal keeper wrote to the Marine Department requesting a hut be built for the temporary keeper. It was hard enough for a family to live around the shifts of one keeper, but when boarding the temporary keeper as well it was impossible. The keepers both had families with small children, who in bad weather would be shut inside, trying to be quiet after the shifts of both their father and the boarder.
The following month the situation had become desperate. Another letter appeared in the letter book from the head keeper, requesting permission to build the hut, even offering to pay for it himself. A two room hut was built and paid for by the Marine Department a few months later.