Seaview Lighthouse

Seaview Terrace (Originally Gaol Hill), Hokitika

  • Seaview Lighthouse. Hokitika.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: N Jackson. Date: 23/10/2015.
  • Seaview Lighthouse. Hokitika.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: N Jackson. Date: 23/10/2015.
  • Seaview Lighthouse. Hokitika. December 1998. Image included in Field Record Form Collection.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand . Taken By: Trish McCormack.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1704 Date Entered 2nd April 2004


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the building, its fixtures and fittings, and land on part CT WS2D/680 as shown on Plan B of the Registration Report.

City/District Council

Westland District


West Coast Region

Legal description

Pt RS 1137 (CT WS2D/680)


With the onset of the West Coast gold rushes, the river port of Hokitika rapidly grew to become one of the busiest ports in the colony during the late 1860s (May: 1962, p 337). However the approach to the port was dangerous; by the end of 1865 when the port had been operating for little more than a year, some forty vessels had been wrecked on the coast or on the bar at the mouth of the Hokitika River. As a consequence, a 'hoist beacon' was erected at the river mouth as a safety measure.

In 1875, it was announced in the local Guardian newspaper that the lighthouse originally intended for the Tory Channel in the Marlborough Sounds would be erected on the terrace at Seaview. Land was reserved in 1876, and a new lighthouse constructed in 1879 to the design of 'Marine Engineer to the General Government' John Blackett - known as the 'father of our lighthouse system'. Between 1871 and 1889, Blackett was responsible for the erection of 14 lighthouses throughout the country. The Hokitika light was a 'fifth order dioptric white light' visible at a distance of 16 miles in clear weather. Gas operated via the town supply, it was first shown on 22 September 1879.

By the early twentieth century, use of the port had declined significantly. Shipping ceased completely in 1929. The light ceased operation on 31 October 1924, and the lamp fittings were removed to the Marine Store in Wellington the following year. The tower was to be demolished by the Marine Department, but gained a reprieve when Seaview Hospital expressed a desire to use it as an observation tower for the hospital sports ground. Later, during WWII, the National Reserve used the tower as a coast watching station.

After the war the lighthouse tower was neglected, and began to deteriorate. In 1976 a discourse on the future of the structure was initiated by the hospital management committee at Seaview, who were at that stage responsible for its maintenance. The lighthouse was surveyed and found to be badly decayed. Despite weatherproofing by the Ministry of Works in 1983, the structure was declared unsound by a hospital engineer in 1987. The erection of a replica was considered at this time. A fire further damaged the structure in 1989. However following the completion of a conservation plan by Chris Cochran in 1989, the Regional Committee of the NZHPT applied to the Trust for a grant for full restoration. A sum was granted in 1991, and the Regional Committee accepted the tender of the Westland District Council to restore the lower 1.5 metres of the tower. This took place in late 1992. Thereafter the lighthouse restoration project languished until 1998, when Heritage Hokitika announced plans to move the lighthouse to a site in the town. Although a discussion document was circulated, the decision was made to preserve the lighthouse on its original site. In 2002 Heritage Hokitika carried out a full restoration. The lantern was replaced and a solar powered working light installed as a token reminder of the building's function.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Seaview Lighthouse has historical value as one of very few reminders of the formerly significant port at Hokitika.

Technological value as a rare surviving timber framed lighthouse of the 1870s.

(a) it is representative of the first phase of the development of the national transportation infrastructure in the 1870s.

(b) it has associations with John Blackett, who amongst other roles was New Zealand's marine engineer between 1871 and 1889.

(e) it has community associations as a well-known and prominent landmark in the town of Hokitika.

(f) it is important for public education as a reminder of the importance of the port of Hokitika in the nineteenth century, and of the danger the port posed to shipping; and it has technical accomplishmet.

(j) rarity value as an example of an 1870s timber lighthouse (albeit with original light removed).


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Blackett, John

John Blackett (1818-93) was one of New Zealand's leading nineteenth century civil engineers and the chief designer of many of the public works undertaken during the Vogel era. Born in Newcastle-on-Tyne, he served his apprenticeship with R. & W. Hawthorne, Engineers from 1834-40, and then became a draughtsman and office engineer with the Great Western Railway Company. In 1844 Blackett was made head engineer of a London firm of ship builders and railway contractors, and from 1846 he worked for a copper mining company in Wales. Blackett established his own practice in 1849 but two years later he emigrated to New Zealand and settled near New Plymouth. In 1856 Blackett moved to Nelson where he was appointed Provincial Engineer in 1859. Six years later he became the first Commissioner for the West Coast Goldfields.

After a decade of working in the civil service at a provincial level John Blackett was appointed Marine Engineer and Acting Engineer-in-Chief for the Colony on 1 October 1870. As Marine Engineer, he was responsible for the design of twenty-five lighthouses which were erected during one of the most prolific periods of lighthouse construction in New Zealand. This achievement is considered to be his most significant contribution to engineering in this country, although his work for the Public Works Department was also very important, particularly as it related to the development of the national rail network. Engineer-in-Charge of the North Island Public Works Department from 1878, Blackett was promoted to the office of Engineer-in-Chief of New Zealand in 1884. In this capacity he ran the Engineering Branch of the Public Works Department until 1890 when he was appointed Consulting and Inspecting Engineer for the Colony, resident in London. Blackett returned to New Zealand just before his death in 1893 and he is remembered for the skill with which he realised the ambitious public works programmes fostered by Vogel and his successors.


No biography is currently available for this construction professional


No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

A square shaped 18 foot lighthouse tower, with canted walls clad with rusticated weather boards. The crowning lantern rests on a flat roof with the walkway around it originally protected by an iron balustrade. Access to the interior is provided through a timber, four- panelled door, with a rectangular four-pane transom above. An iron ladder provides access to the roof from the interior, though there was originally an external ladder.

The simple utilitarian nature of the building is relieved by the decorative brackets which support the flat roof, and are highlighted by the paint colour.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1879 -

1925 -
Light removed.

Ladder moved inside.

Stone plinth constructed, interior lining and floor removed?

1983 -
Waterproofing with Butynol carried out by Ministry of Works.

1989 -
Damaged by fire.

1992 -
Westland District Council carries out a partial restoration. The stone plinth is removed, new foundations installed, and the lower 1.5 metres weatherboarded.

2002 - 2003
Heritage Hokitika carries out full restoration. Lantern and light are replaced.

Construction Details

Predominantly Kauri frame and rusticated weatherboards, on Australian hardwood plates. Concrete foundations.

Completion Date

8th September 2004

Report Written By

Pam Wilson

Information Sources

Department of Conservation

Department of Conservation

(Hokitika): Lighthouse Contract and Drawings 1 & 2 Nov. 1878.

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Orr, Katherine W. 'Blackett, John 1818 - 1893', updated 22 June 2007


May, 1962

Philip Ross May. The West Coast Gold Rushes, 1962.


The Guardian

Hokitika, August 1875

Conservation Plan

Conservation Plan

Cochran, Christopher Seaview Lighthouse Conservation Plan, 1989

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Southern Region Office.

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.