New Zealand Post - official issuer of New Zealand stamps & commemorative coins

2019 Lighthouse Perspectives

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Ever since the first voyagers arrived from Hawaiki, New Zealand’s rough coastline and changeable weather have proved both a risk and a challenge to those attempting to make land. Oral histories indicate that waka were wrecked as the first people discovered New Zealand’s shores. Over 1,500 shipwrecks were recorded in the 19th century alone, causing upwards of 2,000 deaths. The New Zealand government was eventually convinced to act, and lighthouses began to form a significant presence in Aoteoroa by the 1860s.

Issue information

The earliest lighthouses had fixed lights that did not flash. These were eventually phased out as they could be confused with other lights along the shoreline. These early lights were fuelled by colza oil, and then paraffin oil. The long wicks on these lamps had to be trimmed constantly to ensure they emitted enough light. This formed just one of the many gruelling duties of the lighthouse keeper.

The position of lighthouses meant light keepers and their families had to live in exposed and remote locations, with often inhospitable weather conditions. Lodgings could be cold, cramped and damp. The surrounding environment was often dangerous for young children, accidents were common and there would have been no immediate access to medical help.

The lighthouse keeper’s main challenge was to remain awake through the night, with the light inside the lighthouse itself only just bright enough to read a book by. When lights used fuel, two or three lighthouse keepers may have rotated through the small hours to keep it burning. Every two years lighthouse keepers and their families would move to a new station. This allowed them to progress from assistant to principal keeper, and shared the burden of the more isolated, uncomfortable and bleak stations among the keeping families.

Pencarrow lighthouse was the first permanent lighthouse to be built in New Zealand. Situated near Wellington, it was used both as a coastal light and to guide ships into Wellington Harbour. Pencarrow was also the only lighthouse to ever be cared for by a female lighthouse keeper. Mary Jane Bennett took over light keeping duties, of what was simply a beacon in a cottage, at Pencarrow in 1855 after the death of her husband George. She continued her duties long after the permanent lighthouse was opened in January 1859.

Despite the introduction of modern navigation technologies, lighthouses appear to have a future in New Zealand. They are considered to be an essential safety net that will always serve a purpose in the event of technological failure. They are also sustainable, with 70 per cent of lighthouses now solar powered.  

Presentation Pack

Lighthouses come in various shapes and sizes and materials, influenced by the architecture of the time, the resources available and the positioning of the structure. The unique designs of lighthouses are part of their charm, and they make popular pilgrimages among local and international travellers alike. Learn more about the history of these fascinating structures with this presentation pack. It includes a first day cover, a miniature sheet and a set of six stamps.

Miniature Sheet and First Day Covers

The miniature sheet first day cover is illustrated with the window frame of the Puysegur Point lighthouse. The first day cover displays illustrations of all six lighthouses featured in this stamp issue. The miniature sheet shows Cape Egmont lighthouse, with the iconic Mount Taranaki in the background. This lighthouse is also known for its picturesque views.  

Commemorative Coins

Take a look at the New Zealand Lighthouses coin that was also part of this issue. Click here to find out more.

Product Listing for 2019 Lighthouse Perspectives

Click on image to enlarge.

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single $1.20 'Pouto lighthouse' gummed stamp.

Erected in 1884, New Zealand’s oldest wooden lighthouse was built in an area with a history of over 150 shipwrecks. Decommissioned some years ago, it is now maintained by Heritage New Zealand.

Single Stamp

Single $1.20 'Manukau Heads lighthouse' gummed stamp.

Built from Australian iron bark and totara, the structure at Manukau Heads is a popular tourist destination, cared for a by a local community trust. 

Single Stamp

Single $1.20 'Baring Head lighthouse' gummed stamp.

First lit in 1935, Baring Head replaced Pencarrow, New Zealand’s oldest lighthouse. It serves the dual purpose of providing coastal light and guiding ships into Wellington Harbour. 

Single Stamp

Single $2.40 'French Pass lighthouse' gummed stamp.

Sitting just three metres above sea level, this small structure was first lit in 1884. It illuminates the narrow channel between D’Urville Island and the mainland near the north-eastern tip of the South Island. 

Single Stamp

Single $3.00 'Nugget Point lighthouse' gummed stamp.

Also known as Tokata lighthouse, the structure at Nugget Point began operating in July 1870. Lighthouse keeping families faced cold and difficult living conditions at this posting but benefited from its proximity to Kaka Point township. 

Single Stamp

Single $3.60 'Puysegur Point lighthouse' gummed stamp.

Situated on the south-west extremity of Fiordland in the South Island, the original wooden structure at Puysegur Point became the victim of arson in 1942. Its cast iron replacement was one of the last stations in New Zealand to be automated.

Miniature Sheet Mint, used or cancelled gummed miniature sheet. $12.60
First Day Cover First day cover with six gummed stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $13.10
Miniature Sheet First Day Cover First day cover with gummed miniature sheet affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue.


Presentation Pack

The last lighthouse to be unmanned was Brothers Island lighthouse in 1990. Since then, all lighthouses have been automated and are monitored remotely. Some lighthouses have been retired from duty and replaced with more functional structures that are relatively unrecognisable next to their classic counterparts, while many now operate with electric light. A few decommissioned lighthouses are cared for by, the Department of Conservation, Heritage New Zealand and community trusts. You could find out more about Aotearoa’s lighthouses with this presentation pack.

Still available to purchase. Click here.


Technical information

Date of issue: 6 March 2019
Number of stamps: Six gummed stamps
Denominations: $1.20 x 3, $2.40, $3.00, $3.60
Stamps, miniature sheet and first day covers designed by: Hannah Fortune, New Zealand Post, Wellington, New Zealand
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print, Dunedin, by lithography
Number of colours: Four process colours with UV high gloss and rough gloss
Stamp size and format: 50mm x 30mm (horizontal)
Miniature sheet size and format: 170mm x 95mm (horizontal)
Paper type:  Tullis Russell 104gsm red phosphor gummed stamp paper
Number of stamps per sheet:  25
Perforation gauge: 14.8 x 14.67
Special blocks: Plate/Imprint blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least six stamps from a sheet. Barcode blocks were available in A and B formats.
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 5 March 2020. First day covers remained on sale until 5 May 2019.