3 Rue Balguerie, AKAROA

Quick links:

The small timber Customhouse (Former), located at close to the Akaroa waterfront at 3 Rue Balguerie, was built in 1857-1858 and reflects a period of Akaroa’s history when it was a customs port and port of entry into New Zealand. It remains as tangible evidence of the importance of the maritime trade in Akaroa’s settlement during the colonial period. It has aesthetic, historical and cultural significance as a surviving example of an early purpose-built customhouse and has technological significance due to its being a rare and early surviving example of mud and stud construction Akaroa Harbour is a large, long harbour on the southern coast of Horomaka/Te Pātaka-a- Rākaihautū (Banks Peninsula). Tuhiraki (Mount Bossu) is the kō (digging stick) of the famous Waitaha explorer Rākaihautū. Akaroa was occupied by iwi such as Hāwea, Waitaha, Rapuwai, and Kāti Māmoe prior to the southern Kāi Tūhaitara migration to Canterbury. Te Ake was one of several Ngāi Tahu tūpuna (ancestors) who claimed land during this migration, placing his tokotoko at the head of the harbour. Akaroa continues to be a renowned mahinga kai (food-gathering area) for the local Kāi Tahu hapū based at the small kāika of Ōnuku which is located just to the south of Paka Ariki, Akaroa township. By the early nineteenth century, Akaroa Harbour had become a favourite port of call for whaling ships. French whaler, Jean François Langlois became involved in land transactions in the area in the late 1830s, which eventually lead to the founding of the Nanto-Bordelaise Company and ultimately, in August 1840, French (and some German) settlers from the Comte de Paris landing at Paka Ariki/Akaroa. In 1842 Akaroa was given the status of a customs port, partly to combat the smuggling of alcohol into the town. The town’s customs officers used various premises until the Customhouse was erected in 1857-1858. The location was ideal because of its excellent views of the harbour and shipping movements, and its close proximity to other official and commercial service buildings within the town. The simple single-storeyed Customhouse (Former) is a single roomed colonial weatherboard- clad building with little detailing apart from a simple ‘running wave’ bargeboard on its east gable end. It is rectangular in plan and has a square entrance porch on its east elevation. The construction method is ‘mud and stud’, a building technique whereby mud (clay, sand and straw) and supported by vertical lathes split with the grain and nailed to horizontal rails between the post and the frame. The customs officer was visited by masters of all visiting ships on arrival and prior to their departure from Akaroa. In 1880, Akaroa ceased to be classified as a port of entry and the Customhouse changed its use to become a survey office. In 1897 the building was moved a few metres to make way for the Borough Chambers which was built to the west of the building. Later it was used as an annex to that adjacent Borough Council building. The building was repaired and repainted in 1939 in the lead up to Akaroa’s centenary celebrations. In 1969 the Customhouse (Former) was handed over to the Akaroa Museum, it was restored in 1976 and remains part of the museum. The building sustained moderate damage as a result of the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, requiring repair, restoration and strengthening work. This work was completed by the Christchurch City Council in 2017. It included the reconstruction of the chimney in brick veneer made from the original bricks over a structural steel frame, and a steel portal within the original brick fireplace. Other works included repairs to the earth fill of the mud and stud walls, reinstatement of the original plaster wall finish (with the addition of hessian strips within the like for like plaster finish to minimise damage from differential movement), lime wash interior painting and exterior timberwork repairs and repainting.

Customhouse. Image courtesy of | Paul Willyams | 01/02/2010 | Paul Willyams
Customhouse. January 1985. Original image submitted at time of registration | Pam Wilson | NZHPT Field Record Form Collection



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 2


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

6th June 1983

Date of Effect

6th June 1983

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 1 DP 2864 (RT CB256/13) and Section 81 Town of Akaroa (RT CB375/25), Canterbury Land District and the building known as Customhouse thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Heritage New Zealand Board meeting on 3 September 2015.

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 2864 (RT CB256/13) and Section 81 Town of Akaroa (RT CB375/25), Canterbury Land District

Stay up to date with Heritage this month