The talk is of tiny island's tourism

NEIL RATLEY ON DOG ISLAND
Last updated 05:00 17/12/2012

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The historic lighthouse keeper's cottage on Dog Island sheltered a group from the wind and rain as they discussed developing the tiny island for sustainable tourism last week.

Representatives from Maritime New Zealand, the Department of Conservation, iwi, the fishing industry and businesses gathered in the old stone building on Friday as the wind and rain rattled the windows outside.

Organised by Ascot Park Hotel executive manager Peter Ridsdale with the assistance of DOC, the visit to the island was to familiarise potential trustees for a board to drive the restoration of the island's buildings and ecology.

Mr Ridsdale is spearheading a campaign endorsing Dog Island as a place of ecological and historical tourism.

DOC Otago/Southland Pou Tairangahau Dave Taylor said the department would like to see businesses get involved with conservation.

"Dog Island is not managed by DOC so has slipped through the cracks with its historical buildings and ecology," he said while sheltered in the historic lighthouse keeper's building.

The department had widened its view and wanted the community and business to help with restoration and conservation, he said.

"Dog Island stands out. It's heritage is too good to lose," Mr Taylor said.

The island is under the control and management of Maritime New Zealand.

Maritime NZ lighthouse engineer Jim Foye said the organisation also supported the initiative to establish Dog Island as an ecotourism destination.

However, while the former keepers' accommodation could be restored and opened to visitors, opening the historic lighthouse to tourists would not happen any time soon.

"The lighthouse will need considerable restoration and engineering work to be made safe," he said.

"It may be something that could happen down the road."

Awarua Runaka representative Tiny Metzger said he supported the idea of restoring the island and saving its history.

Businessmen Dean Addie and Alistair Rance stated their support for moving forward and forming a trust to drive the project.

"There is still a lot of water to pass under the bridge but there are exciting opportunities," Mr Rance said.

Radio and television presenter and lighthouse buff Marcus Lush was also on Dog Island for the meeting and said he would promote the project as a patron.

A further meeting will be held in February with trust nominations and an invitation for other people to support the project.

AT A GLANCE

Dog Island is a small island, just 800m long and located in Foveaux Strait, 5km southeast of Bluff with a small airstrip, historic lighthouse and lighthouse keepers' cottage.

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The light began operation in August 1865 and in 1916 it was reported to be unsafe and the entire tower was encased in a concrete shell.

The original lighting system was the first revolving light in the country with 16 small oil lamps, each with its own lens, turned inside a single lantern.

In 1925 the individual lamps were replaced by a single lamp and rotating lens and in 1954 the light was converted from oil to diesel-generated electricity.

The light was automated in 1989 and the keepers were withdrawn that same year.

- The Southland Times

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