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Welcome to Rangitoto Island, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand

The youngest of the islands in the Hauraki Gulf, Rangitoto emerged from the sea around 700 years ago in a series of volcanic explosions. Rising to a height of 260 metres the circular island presents the same uniform appearance and is visible from most parts of the mainland. Rangitoto's name has been translated to mean the day the blood of Tamatekapua was shed, relating to a major Maori battle at Islington Bay about 1350. Rangitoto is an icon of Auckland city.

Situated about 8 km northeast of Auckland and connected to Motutapu Island by a causeway, Rangitoto is a large island of 2311 hectares with a wonderful volcanic landscape that supports over 200 species of moss, plants and trees including the largest Pohutukawa forest in the world. It was purchased by the Crown in 1854, set aside as a recreation reserve in 1890 and for over 30 years the island's volcanic scoria was quarried and shipped to Auckland. Between 1925 and 1936 prison labour built roads on the island and a track to the summit.

There are some 10 or so short and long walks around the island and from the summit there are magnificent views of the Hauraki Gulf, the Waitemata Harbour and Auckland city.

Rangitoto Islands' unique geological and natural attributes are of international interest. What is less known is that the three Bach Settlements of Rangitoto Wharf, Islington Bay and Beacon End are also of national importance.

The bach communities on Rangitoto Island were built in the 1920's and 30's and consist of private holiday dwellings and boatsheds as well as communal facilities such as paths, swimming pool, community hall and tennis courts. Built by families, using the scarce resources of the Depression era, the buildings demonstrate the 'kiwi' do-it-yourself, jack-of-all-trades attitudes of the times.

As a result of a prohibition order on further buildings in 1937, the remnants of the communities reflect this specific time in Auckland's development and as a result they are part of local history involving typical New Zealanders in a unique environment.

Because other bach communities, which were prevalent throughout the country, have virtually disappeared, the Rangitoto bach settlements are irreplaceable artefacts of New Zealand's architectural, and social history and therefore are important beyond their locality.

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Museum Bach Opening Hours

Bach 38 Museum at Rangitoto Wharf will be open by appointment
Opening times are from the first Fullers ferry of the day to the last ferry of the day.

Open other days by appointment -

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Latest Additions

Education Pages

New content added to the education pages here>>

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Rangitoto Scouts

Photos of the Scout Camps in the 1930s, 1948 and 1951 here>>

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Rangitoto Wrecks

Photos of the wrecks here>>

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Rangitoto Ramblings

The latest newsletter is available here>>

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Gareth Cooke Photos

Gareth has taken a series of photos of the Rangitoto Baches and wrecks view his online gallery here>>

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From the TVNZ Archives

A Summer Place

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Photos of Rangitoto Island submitted by the public on Flickr are here>>

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Rangitoto Island Biosecurity Standards. Find out what you need to know here>>

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The Environmental Care Code and Water Care Code can be found here>>

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New photos have been added to the galleries here>>

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Charitable Trust

The Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust is Charities Commission registered - our number is CC28141 - so all donations over $5 are tax deductible. View certificate here>>
More information on societies and trusts here>>

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Major financial sponsor
AMP Financial Services Limited

Weather for Rangitoto today
Check out what the weather is doing over the Auckland area.

Tide reports -
Check out the high and low tide
for Auckland area

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Heritage Notes
Restoration / #38 / #114
Membership / How to join
Submit / Stories & Photos
Bach 38 / Open Day Images

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Key facts about Rangitoto Island

Maori name: Rangitoto, derived from the phrase 'Te Rangi i totongia a Tamatekapua - the day the blood of Tamatekapua was shed'.

Location: Auckland City, map reference NZMS 260: R11/762888

Height: 260 m

Age: Formed about 600 years ago
(ca 1400 AD)

Volume lava: about 2,300 million cubic metres (equivalent to 468,000 Olympic sized swimming pools)

Volume tuff/ash/pyroclastics: about 19 million cubic metres (equivalent to 3,800 Olympic sized swimming pools)

First Aid on Rangitoto Island.

When the Trust started restoring Bach 38 as our headquarters and museum, part of our responsibilities under OSH is to have a first aid kit appropriate for what we are doing. We had through generous donations built up a suitable first aid kit which was one was stolen. Its replacement is not nearly as comprehensive and we are slowly building it up. Recently Allan Godsall took a party of U3A visitors around the island and one of them fell over doing major damage to his limbs in the form of gashes/grazes. The first aid kit was put to good use and a very nice letter was received from the people thanking us for Allan's prompt care and a donation towards our costs.

Formerly the Honey House

ABOVE: Formerly the 'honey house'

Rangitoto Island can be an inhospitable and inaccessible place and before the advent of rescue helicopters and fast boats, dealing with accidents was problematical. With the influx of holidaymakers to baches and weekend tourists St Johns First Aid stations were built and manned by volunteers at both Rangitoto Wharf and Islington Bay.

St John Station - original part

ABOVE: -St John station - original part.

Below are a few reminiscences from the Burton family who were some of those volunteers.

I remember when the last First Aid station at Rangitoto wharf opened, on the 12th March 1961. It was a grand occasion with bunting flying and dignitaries present.

The story continues: Billy Mills, a cottage owner who lived on the Island, had attended the First Aid incidents at the wharf up until this time. Bill, and his wife, May, lived in a converted tram opposite the turn off (from the main road) to the Islington Bay coastal track

I remember one time when I was going down to Rangitoto on one of the good old blue boats, the weather was not too good and I, not being a good sailor, was becoming more and more green about the gills. Bill Mills was aboard, but what First Aid did he give me? "What's the matter Dawn, all you need is a great big piece of greasy pork". I could have thrown him overboard instead of the contents of my stomach.


St John Kitchen

ABOVE: St John kitchen

But I digress. - The First Aid station. It was decided that the First Aid station was not large enough for family members of the brigade to come down for the holidays or a weekend, so the honey house was moved from a "section next door" to be alongside the old station, but not too close. The two were joined to form 3 rooms. One for First Aid, one for the bedroom and the middle one became the kitchen. A very cosy little cottage.

The First Aid station was manned by the Epsom Ambulance division, or in my case, "womaned" by me when I was on the Island.

The Devonport Domain Board, who were at this time caretakers of the Island, paid for the alterations. First Aid equipment and furnishings for the rest of the station was supplied by the St John Ambulance Association from funds entrusted to it by Mr Alf Watson on behalf of the former Residents Association with donations of furniture by the locals.

Putting the two buildings together

ABOVE: Putting the two buildings together

In a letter to all residents from the Rangitoto Welfare and Improvement Society, they said "…. we would like to thank all those good people who have assisted with donations of money or materials, and also to those who gave so much time in making the alterations to the building. Not forgetting also those who provided tea and refreshments each weekend". Things have not changed have they?

The opening of the Ambulance station was, as I said before, a grand affair. A guard of honour, consisting of three members of the Epsom Division - Laurie Carlyon, Gordon Wilson and Bruce Tooley and one member of the Onehunga Nursing Division, me, met the launch Iona as it berthed at Rangitoto wharf. St John Ambulance staff and Boy Scouts (Des Bentley was also a Scout Master) filled the boat.

The finished Station

ABOVE: The finished station

The two buildings were actually 'prison huts' from the prison camp on Rangitoto Island and were put to good use in the typical recycled Rangitoto fashion. You can see the distinctive centre door with its lintel and side windows in the photo below. There are only are few buildings left on Rangitoto Island from the prison era

Dedicated and opened by the Reverend Lawley Brown, Port Chaplain, with speeches by the then Mayor of Auckland Sir Dove Myer Robinson, Des Bentley; Division Superintendent, District Superintendents (the top dogs) Mr Noble and Mrs Hall, the new rooms were open for inspection.

I don't remember any of the cases that I had to attend but I do know that they were many and varied, mainly minor. If the casebook was still in existence it would probably jog my memory but it is not to be.

Jack Sullivan, Laurie Carlyon and Reg Burton

ABOVE: Messer's Jack Sullivan, Laurie Carlyon and
Reg Burton outside the First Aid Station.

Dawn might not remember any of the cases but this photograph is of one of the activities she undertook as a St Johns Ambulance volunteer.

Islington Bay also had a St John Ambulance station and an article about it was in City Scene last year and reproduced below.

With the advent of the Hauraki Maritime Parks Board, both ambulance stations were pulled down and the equipment removed. The Trust has some photos and stories from that time but would always welcome more.

In a future newsletter we will write about the prison camp and would welcome any photos or memories from that time.

Dawn Burton demonstrating on Anne Sullivan

ABOVE: Laurie Carlyon is sitting watching, Dawn Burton demonstrating the CPR technique of the time and Anne Sullivan is the patient.