Old Ferry Landing Wharf Upgrade

The Historic Ferry Landing Wharf in Whitianga is one of the oldest working stone wharves in the Southern Hemisphere.

The refurbishment of the old stone wharf at Ferry Landing is now complete, with the final stroke being the installation of a public art piece.

James Webster of Tahaa Studios in conjunction with Ngati Hei completed the art piece incorporating local iwi influence with a three metre diameter navigational compass. 

Ferry Landing art

The wharf was central to supporting kauri logging activities back in the 1800s and part of the original 1837 stone wharf still remains. The Wharf is classified as a Grade One structure by Heritage NZ and was in need of restoration.

We've rebuilt the walls and old stone steps that lead up from the Wharf to the landing, using some of the original stones from the Wharf, which were recovered from the sea floor below.

Professional stonemasons were also brought on site to ensure the repaving of the landing platform was in keeping with the historical heritage of the site. The old concrete petrol pump bases have been removed and new wooden marine bollards and seating installed.

"Thanks to some very talented local community members a new derrick has been crafted and rebuilt," says Allan Tiplady our Area Manager for Mercury Bay. "Historically the wooden derrick was used to winch heavy cargo off boats and onto the Wharf. What's fantastic to see the community getting involved in this project with this hands-on approach of reconstructing this new derrick".

The project is in partnership with our Council, Heritage NZ, iwi, Institute of Engineers and the Mercury Bay community.

The restoration works is thanks to a grant of $187,845 from the Lotteries Heritage Fund and approximately $250,000 from our Council. Council have allowed a further amount to complete the lighting which was finished in May 2017. 

Ferry Landing

Why We're Doing It

The Wharf is classified as a Grade One structure by Historic Places Trust and is need of restoration and we want to preserve an iconic historical building.

The project will raise the historical heritage profile of Mercury Bay during the kauri logging period. It is also culturally significant to Mercury Bay iwi Ngati Hei, whose ancestors helped build the wharf.

"We have a very committed group who have come together as a working group," says Mercury Bay Community Board Chairperson Paul Kelly. "These are people who are passionate about preserving and showcasing our historical heritage and also helps to showcase Mercury Bay for its uniqueness."

ferry landing bollards

Who's involved?

Along with initial consultation a working party has been formed which includes:

  • Ngati Hei iwi.
  • Heritage NZ
  • Institute of Engineers (John La Roche and Mike Lancaster)
  • Heritage archaeologist : Brenda Sewell
  • Local residents Toby Morcom and Alison Henry along with retired engineer Bob Nicholls
  • Mercury Bay Community Board Chair : Paul Kelly
  • Thames-Coromandel District council staff - Mercury Bay Area Manager: Allan Tiplady
  • Project Engineer: Andrew Scobie
  • Waikato Regional Council
  • Department of Conservation
  • Mercury Bay Ferries



In December 2014 the Lotteries Environment and Heritage Fund approved a grant of $187,645 towards the project.

On the success of this external funding, Council will now contribute $279,438 towards the project. 

The cost to do the entire work - from the restoration of the stonework through to installing interpretative, historical signage and landscaping - is estimated at $660,000. 

Phase one, which started in 2015 involved the restoration and protection of the eroded stonework, including the recovery of some of the old stones from the sea.

Phase two in 2016 was the upgrade of the ferry landing footpaths and entrance area and phase three was the installation of historic and cultural panels and signage.

Historical Background

The Ferry Landing Historic Wharf is a Council owned asset and represents significant cultural and heritage qualities.

Located on the Cooks Beach side of the harbour it's used daily by the ferry service transporting people to and from Whitianga/Ferry Landing.

The wharf was central to supporting kauri logging activities in this era and part of the original 1837 stone wharf still remains.  

It was added to in 1864 to expand flat land for the timber mill which operated there as the Auckland Sawmill company from 1863-1881.

The wharf has been modified over the years with a raised concrete foundation, petrol bowsers and timber derrick and steps for ferry access.

The earliest part of the stone wharf still exists as freestone blocks at the northern end. Later additions are more regular shaped blocks.The wharf was constructed as part of Gordon Browne's timber and spar camp and the local iwi (Ngati Hei) provided labour to construct the wharf.

There's a historic pa within close proximity of the wharf. Associated with the development of the timber industry in New Zealand, a sawmill operated from 1863 -1881 when it was transferred to the other side of the river.

This sawmill was the first in Mercury Bay to supply the Auckland market with timber and was the main reason for founding Whitianga township.The Historic Places Trust has rated this site as Category A - the highest grade.

The NZ Institute of Professional Engineers has also supporters of the refit of the wharf as it's one of, if not the oldest surviving structures in the country.  

What's more it's still, being used for its original purpose.The intention is to restore the stonework, renew the pavements, recreate the ferry signal, derrick and marine bollards and remove the old petrol pump bases.


As this is a partnership project with our Council, iwi Historic Places Trust, and the wider community, funding is being sourced through a variety of ways. We have received an external grant from the Lotteries Commission and our Council committed $256,000 from our 2014/2015 Annual Plan to the project.