Baring Head Lighthouse is a concrete lighthouse at Baring Head in the Wellington Region of the North Island of New Zealand, with an LED beacon powered by mains electricity. It is owned and operated by Maritime New Zealand and can be accessed via walking tracks in the southern area of the East Harbour Regional Park, south of Wainuiomata.
The lighthouse tower is 12.2 m tall (40 ft), but the hilltop elevation gives a focal height of 87 m (285 ft). The light range is 10 nautical miles (19 km; 12 mi).
The lighthouse was built to be the main approach light to Wellington Harbour, as well as a coastal light for Cook Strait. Lit on 18 June 1935, it replaced the light at Pencarrow Head, which was decommissioned later that year. The lighthouse was initially powered by a diesel generator but was converted to mains electricity in 1950. The 1000 Watt light was fully automated in 1989 and demanned. In February 2005, the original lens was replaced by a flashing LED beacon visible from up to 18 kilometres (10 nmi; 11 mi).
The History of Baring Head Lighthouse
In 1932 it was decided to build a new light station at Baring Head to serve both as an approach light to the Wellington Harbour and as a coastal light for Cook Strait.
The lighthouse was built on land presented to the Government by a local farmer, Mr Eric Riddiford. Work commenced on the buildings, the lighthouse, and the radio beacon towers in 1934. The Baring Head light was first lit in June 1935.
Baring Head was the first manned light to be built in New Zealand in 22 years. The previously manned lighthouse, Castle Point, was built in 1913. The lights built between 1913 and 1935 were all unmanned.
The light at Pencarrow Head had guided ships into Wellington Harbour before Baring Head Lighthouse was built. First lit in 1859, the Pencarrow Head Lighthouse was the first major lighthouse to be built in New Zealand. The old Pencarrow light was extinguished when the Baring Head light started operating.
Operation of the Baring Headlight
Baring Head was the first light in New Zealand to start operating immediately on electricity. It was initially supplied by diesel generators until mains electricity arrived in 1950.
After the Baring Headlight was built, a programme of electrification of all major lights around New Zealand began. This was completed by 1957.
The station was automated in 1989 and the last keeper was withdrawn.
In February 2005, the original light and associated equipment was replaced with a new LED beacon located out on the balcony of the lighthouse.
The new light is powered 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 Baring Head Light station
The light station, being close to Wellington, was a popular posting for lighthouse keepers and their families. Children were able to attend school which was an advantage that most other light stations did not provide.
There were originally two keepers stationed at Baring Head but this was reduced to just one.
Baring Head Lighthouse was used as a signal station by the armed forces during the Second World War. Lightkeepers were exempt from conscription because their work contributed to the war effort. Keepers were issued with army jerseys to counter the extreme weather conditions under which they worked.