Dog Island Lighthouse
Dog Island, Foveaux Strait
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Private/No Public Access
22nd November 1984
Sec 1 SO 12376 (CT 4662), Southland Land District
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is the original citation considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.
Completed in 1865 on Dog Island in Foveaux Strait near the entrance to Bluff Harbour, this lighthouse is both the tallest and one of the oldest in the country.
Tenders were called in February 1864, and a contract let on April 9 of that year. The lighthouse was designed by James Balfour (uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson) and built of quarried stone obtained on the island. The structure, standing over 35 metres high, has alternate black and white bands making it an impressive sight in Foveaux Strait. The walls have been strengthened on the exterior by a skin of reinforced concrete and these 1918 major structural repairs were the last made to the lighthouse.
Good maintenance over the years has ensured the survival of this historic lighthouse to effectively perform its function as a major navigational aid. As well as its age and height it is significant for its rare use of masonry in a New Zealand lighthouse and as an extant example of the work of an eminent engineer.
Balfour, James Melville
James Balfour was born and educated in Edinburgh where he subsequently entered the family business of D & T Stevenson & Co, contracting engineers to the Scottish Light(house) Service. On Stevenson & Co's recommendation Balfour was appointed to the position of Marine Engineer to the Otago Provincial Government and he arrived in New Zealand on 23 September 1863 to take up the post. In his capacity as Marine Engineer Balfour surveyed the Clutha River and the Molyneux and Waikawa harbours, designed the Otago graving dock, was a member of the Dunedin' Sanitary Commission, and reported on the proposed harbours of New Plymouth, Timaru and Wanganui.
Of greater significance, however, was Balfour's contribution to the national lighthouse system. He designed the lights at Taiaroa Head (1864), Dog Island (1865), Farewell Spit (1870), Nugget Point (1870), Cape Campbell (1870), Ponui Passage (1871), Bean Rock (1872), and Cape Saunders (1880). Although the lighthouses at Taiaroa Head and Dog Island were both of masonry construction Balfour came to favour the erection of timber lighthouses as they could be built much more rapidly. Having been promoted to the position of General Government Marine Engineer, Inspector of Steamers and Superintendent of Lighthouses in October 1866, Balfour's other legacies to the country's lighthouse system were the first regulations governing the conduct of lighthouse keepers and the use of Stevenson's lanterns and optics by the Marine Department.
James Balfour drowned during an official visit to Timaru harbour in December 1869 at the age of thirty-eight, but he is remembered in engineering histories as being one of a number of outstanding engineers who did so much to further the development of the colony.
Historical and associated iwi/hapu/whanau
Henry Brett, White Wings (volume1), The Brett Printing Company Limited, 1924, Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection: http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Bre01Whit.html
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.