Popular Catlins landmark has hint of gold

23:13, Jun 23 2014
Nugget Point
TOURIST HOT SPOT: Nugget Point.

Golden nuggets line the coast near Balclutha, or so the name suggests.

Nugget Point is a must-see for many tourists, with a lighthouse and steep headlands that look out onto the islets, or "nuggets" below.

Named for the eroded rocks that resemble gold nuggets, it was a significant risk for small vessels travelling to the Clutha River, before the installation of the lighthouse

In 1869, the 9-metre lighthouse was built and the oil-burning light was lit on July 4, 1870.

In a region renowned for cold weather, life was tough for the keepers.

The lighthouse was connected to the mains power supply in the 1960s but, according to Maritime New Zealand, electricity was not meant to be used for heating.

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One keeper was denied twice when he requested electric heaters for his house.

In 1989, the lighthouse became fully automated and is monitored remotely in a control room at Maritime NZ in Wellington.

Maori knew the point as Tokata, each rock below had a name and the point still holds significant meaning to Ngai Tahu.

Department of Conservation Catlins ranger Cheryl Pullar said there had been a lot of work going into upgrading the facilities for visitors at Nugget Point.

"It's a spot we're really proud of," she said.

The Nuggets are home to an array of wildlife - from the breeding grounds of yellow-eyed penguins and New Zealand fur seals, to visits from elephant and leopard seals, New Zealand sea lions and migrating southern right whales.

Native threatened plants can also be found, including the Catlins coastal daisy and the fiece lancewood, Pullar said.

DOC applied twice to have Nugget Point become a marine reserve - once in the 1990s and once in 2004 - but both applications were opposed by recreational and commercial fisherman and eventually rejected.

Nugget Point was named No 7 of New Zealand's top 10 landmarks by travel website TripAdvisor, which ran a travellers' choice competition.

The Southland Times