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Mana Island (1865-1877)


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Mana Island is a three-kilometre long, 2.17 square kilometres, with cliffs covering much of its coast and a plateau occupying much of the centre. It lies three kilometres off the North Island coast in the Tasman Sea, west of the city of Porirua and to the south of the entrance to Porirua Harbour. The name Mana is an abbreviation of "Te Mana O Kupe ki Aotearoa". It acknowledges Kupe the great Polynesian navigator who discovered New Zealand (Aotearoa). 13

In 1856,  the northernmost of The Brothers islands, off the north-east tip of the South Island, was considered an excellent site for a lighthouse. But Marine Board members visiting on a still, fine day in 1863 nevertheless found that neither island offered easy access. The precipitous coastline and choppy waters were a danger to anyone landing, and building would be expensive. The board opted for Mana Island, off the south-west coast of the North Island as the lighthouse site. 18

The Mana lighthouse is the twin to the tower at Tiritiri Matangi It was designed by McLean and Stilman, civil engineers of Great George Street, London  4  and prefabricated  by Simpson and Co, of Pimlico, London 15  57   

The cast iron tower, lens and lantern were shipped from Pimlico, London in March 1864 and were erected on the northern side of the island. The overseeing was supervised by Richard AyIner, the Marine Boards lighthouse artificer. 100

The Mana Island light was first lit on February 1, 1865, and along with Pencarrow Head and Nelson Bolder Bank were the only lights serving the Cook Strait area.

The first principal keeper on Mana was William Hendle. He was born in London in 1831 and sailed to New Zealand in 1856, where he married Jane White. Hendle joined the Marine Board as the Principal Keeper for Mana Island and was paid a salary of 190 per annum. He moved to the island with his wife and 2 children, George Norton (born 1862) and Robert White (born 1864). They had a previous son, James White (born 1857) but he died in 1863. 100

While on the island, two more children were born, George (1867) and Alfred John (1869). Unfortunately George Norton died in February 1866. 100

After five years, the Hendle family left the island in July of 1870 and moved to Cape Campbell. 100

Unfortunately the Mana Island light displayed the same characteristics as Pencarrow Head lighthouse at the entrance to Wellington Harbour and this may have caused the loss of two ships the City of Newcastle and Cyrus, in 1870, with their masters confusing the two lights. 3

Therefore, in 1874  a decision was made to move the lighthouse to Cape Egmont where a lighthouse had been planned since the 1860's 10 and a lighthouse was planned for  The Brothers a rocky inlet in Cook Strait. 18

In 1876 construction commenced on The Brothers lighthouse and was first lit in September, 1877, at the same time the light at Mana Island was extinguished. 10

Four year later in 1881, the lighthouse was removed and shipped to Cape Egmont, aboard the lighthouse tender Hinimoa57



For a history on the farming of Mana Island see  99



The lighthouse has been decommissioned and removed.

Visits are welcome at Mana Island by boat. However the island is a bird sanctuary and has been eradicated of all non native pests. Please see the DOC website for further information and restrictions.

A track to the old lighthouse site, the Tirohanga track takes 1.5 hours. 13

The brick foundations of the lighthouse tower and the ditch and bank boundary of the keepers gardens can still be seen today. 13



Island North
Province Wellington
Location Wellington/Porirua
Date Commissioned February 1, 1865
Date Decommissioned September 24, 1877
Elevation Above Sea Level
Converted Kerosene To Diesel
Converted Diesel To Mains Electricity
Present Tower
Date Visited


Principal Keeper From To
  1st lit February 1, 1865  
William Hendle February 1, 1865  22  July, 1870  22 
Norman Simpson  197 July 16, 1870  197   August, 1877 197
    Extinguished September 24, 1877


Assistant Keeper (1st) From To
  1st lit February 1, 1865  
Norman Simpson  197 April, 1870  197  July 15, 1870 (Promoted to Principal Keeper)  197
J Murthy  22  July 5, 1870  22 end of 1871  22  
G Crane  22    
    Extinguished September 24, 1877


Assistant Keeper (2nd) From To
  1st lit February 1, 1865  
George Perry  22 July 20, 1865  22 January 30, 1867  22    (Dismissed)  22 
    Extinguished September 24, 1877




Additional Sources:

57Puke Ariki interview with Cape Egmont's last keeper Bryan Richards

58Papakura Radio Club


100Friends of Mana Island David Cormick Lighthouse Keepers on Mana Island

197. Norman Simpson (Gayle Dickison, Nov 4 2011)


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Text and photographs. Copyright 1999-2013 Mark Phillips. All rights reserved.

If anyone has any information on this light please contact me.

Last Updated: January 1, 2010