Rescue & Restoration

ISignalStation1n 1957 the Manukau Heads light became officially ‘unwatched’ until 1986 when it was superseded by a powerful fixed beam incorporated into the nearby Signal Station.

 

BetsyR_1By 1984 site erosion was again bringing the sea dangerously closer and dooming the Lighthouse. That year, local identity Betsy Robinson and others formed the Awhitu Historical Club partly in anticipation of the light’s demise.

Rescue:
In 1986 the tower and lantern were abandoned to winds, romantics and vandals with a brief reprieve starring in a 1988 Honda TV commercial. Waiuku Museum

Light-dome-copy

 

Society was officially informed it could apply for ownership. However, the Museum had second thoughts when further informed that ‘should rampant erosion necessitate recovery of the tower from the sea’ it would be at the Society’s cost. This prompted the nearby Robinson family and other volunteers to save the Lighthouse intact. In February 1992 they removed the prisms to the security of Waiuku Museum; the lantern itself to storage on the Robinson farm; and dragged the concrete base inland, where it remains.

 

Restoration:
By 1999 the Awhitu Historical Club had become an incorporated society led by future District Councilor Lucie Rutherfurd. The group began considering reunification of the separated lighthouse parts in a suitable location and approached Waiuku Museum for assistance.

Assistance Sought:
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Landowners Ports of Auckland offered a peppercorn lease (if ever demanded) and potential sources of building funds were canvassed. Slow progress by 2005 encouraged Lucie’s Lighthouse Restoration Committee to approach Awhitu Enterprise – the Peninsula’s newly formed business stimulation group. Enterprise immediately identified economic advantages for the Awhitu Community once the historic harbour icon was restored to prominence. This promted offers of help from community members.

 

Success:
Enterprise immediately formed a new Lighthouse Construction Committee and included members of the previous body. This group quickly appointed businessman Bruce Russell Project Manager (voluntary) and then then proceeded to approach corporate entities for funding.

Enthusiasm for the cause quickly caught on; so quickly that the first sod of the new site was turned on 23 March 2006.

Reopening:
LighthouseOpening_0155On 23 September in that same year Prime Minister Helen Clark, cheered by 500 mostly locals, symbolically relit the rebuilt lighthouse and declared it officially open 132 years and 22 days to the date of the first lighting. One of the proudest moments in the history of Awhitu Peninsula.