Special Projects

Tiritiri supporters have worked hard to create a world-class wildlife sanctuary though our work is far from over. Currently a handful of capital projects are in the pipeline including a field centre, a signal mast and a lighthouse museum.

Field Centre

For a long time, it has been recognised that the current bunkhouse does not adequately meet the needs of the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Supporters of Tiritiri (SoTM). The hut is designed primarily for short term stays and during peak periods, there is not enough space for SoTM’s researchers and workers.  

So as early as 2000 the idea of a new field centre was mooted. This would be designed to fulfil the needs of visitors overnighting, on-island employees and field researchers undertaking longer-term stays. 

A suitable site close to the visitor centre and workshops was set aside many years ago and has remained untouched. The environmental impact of the field centre was a key consideration for the steering group. The final design was one that was low-impact, self-sufficient and capable of supplying additional energy for the island’s grid. 

The final plans include a stand-alone water catchment and storage unit, storm and wastewater treatment unit and a generous supply of solar panels to help make up for the current solar power deficit.

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Not all visitors are alike, so it was important the design met the needs of the various visitors and workers who stay on the island. Bearing this in mind, a multi-functional design consisting of two large bunkrooms sleeping eleven people and two four bed family-style cabins was selected. 

The XX square metre field centre will contain – 

  • Accomodation for 30 overnight visitors
  • Self contained accommodation for 3 permanent staff. 
  • Family friendly cabins 
  • A break-out space for researchers 
  • Showers, toilets and a communal kitchen
  • Separate dining and lounge areas

As a key stage in developing a business plan to operate and maintain the centre, it was agreed with DOC that once the centre becomes operational, the existing bunk house will not be used for bookable accommodation and that SoTM would take over all booking functions.

Signal Mast

Signal flags were used internationally by ships at sea to relay short messages to those onshore. 

Typically the ships would indicate via a series of flags whether a pilot ship was required, though sometimes they would contain a plea for help or assistance entering the harbour if the boat had been in a collision. 

At night, ships would send up flares and rockets to attract the signalman’s attention. By using a series of flags they would relay their message which would then be passed on to Devonport by the signalman. 

Currently a renovated signal tower or ‘morse house’ sits alongside the lighthouse. By erecting a replica signal mast, visitors will get a fuller understanding of the island’s important role in communicating with ships. 

The mast will be considerably higher than the lighthouse and has the capability to be lowered, so that it does ot disrupt the operation of the lighthouse.

Its presence will be used to demonstrate the full suite of marine technology that was employed throughout the 1800s and early 1900s. On occasion, it is anticipated that school groups will be treated to a display of the original system of flags and baskets to communicate with the mainland. 


Lighthouse Museum

As the oldest operating lighthouse in New Zealand, Tiritiri Matangi holds a special place in maritime history. Constructed six years after New Zealand’s first lighthouse in Pencarrow, the lighthouse was built in 1864 in an age of shifting technologies. In the 1860s, ship traffic increased significantly with the arrival of steam-boats, so the Government set about constructing a number of new lighthouses at key locations. Seventeen lighthouses were built during the period 1860 – 1900. 

One of the lighthouses built during this time was one that was erected on Cuvier island which provided light for ships entering the Hauraki gulf from the East. The Supporters’ were gifted this exquisite ‘first order’ light from DOC after it was rediscovered in a shed in Pureora forest. Dismantled and placed into boxes, the light and turning mechanism had been sitting there in the middle of a forest for 25 years. The heritage expert at DOC, XX, approached former Tiritiri lighthouse keeper, Ray Walter, to find out whether the society would like guardianship of it. The answer was a resounding ‘yes’. Weighing 8 tonnes and standing at 6.5 metres in height, the light is now housed in a newly built shed behind the lighthouse. 

To display this light properly, the Supporters’ have developed a plan to double the size of this building and – with a view to minimising the visual impact – excavate the basement. As well as displaying this elaborate light, the Museum will tell the story of gulf’s lighthouse keepers and its pre-European maritime history through artefacts and panel displays.


After significant public and iwi consultation, all three projects have been granted leases by DOC and resource consent from Auckland Council. Further approvals are required from Heritage New Zealand for the Lighthouse Museum, so that project is still awaiting sign-off. 

In order to advance the two approved projects, the Supporters’ removed the Lighthouse Museum from the application and have subsequently been granted resource consent for the Signal Mast and Field Centre. Currently the Supporters are actively fundraising to make up the shortfall of XX to execute these projects. 

If you wish to donate to any of these projects, please contact XXX