Tory Channel Leading Lights


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The Tory Channel Leading Lights were built in 1881 by the Marine Department to aid the passage of shipping through the Cook Strait entrance to Tory Channel. Use of the Channel had increased as the Sounds were settled, and as farming and extractive industries grew. The Lights were housed in two identical timber pyramidal structures, approx 6.4m high and 3.3m square, with a window on the front face at a mezzanine level. The front light is about 7m above and 11m behind the high water mark, the rear light 27m above and 166m behind the high water mark. The two lights are 151m apart. When a ship's master aligns them the ship is able to make the passage. They were de-manned in 1930 when the lights were changed from a kerosene lamp - requiring twice-daily attention - to gas. Electricity was introduced in 1945, in the form of batteries, and that method is still used today. The Lights have maintained their original role with the advent of roll-on, roll-off ferries in the 1960s, which now carry a million people past them each year. The Tory Channel Leading Lights are part of the coastal safety system erected by the Government in the 1880s, but have been excluded from the adoration accorded to 'proper' lighthouses. Yet, to the people of the Marlborough Sounds (and all Cook Strait ferry passengers) they are a vital part of the inter-island link and important in Tory Channel. They helped open up the Channel to shipping, settlement and industry, and their construction and servicing has contributed strongly to the identity of the area.

Tory Channel Leading Lights. Front light – view of Tory Channel and the Inter-island Ferry – Arahura | Peter Cooke | 24/11/2006 | NZ Historic Places Trust
Rear light – viewed from below | Peter Cooke | 24/11/2006 | NZ Historic Places Trust
Front light – showing door | Peter Cooke | 24/11/2006 | NZ Historic Places Trust



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

6th June 2007

Date of Effect

6th June 2007

City/District Council

Marlborough District


Marlborough Region

Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the land comprised in Lighthouse Reserve NZ Gazette 1903, p.736 and later addition, and includes the two light structures (including fittings and fixtures), the former oil store shed on adjoining land, and the view shafts of Tory Channel from the Lights and of the Lights from Tory Channel. The registration excludes other structures on the land.

Legal description

Sec 13 Blk V Arapawa SD (Lighthouse Reserve NZ Gazette 1903, p.736) and Lot 1 DP 3612 (RT MB2A/312), Marlborough Land District

Location Description

In the eastern paddock (or Lighthouse Reserve), Whekenui (part of Okukari Bay), Arapawa Island, Tory Channel.

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