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Signal Tower Moves Again
Signal Tower Moves Again
Thursday, 01 October 2009 12:00

A building which has "migrated" northwards along the Wellington waterfront, only slightly faster than the pace of Continental Drift, is now situated at the junction of Waterloo and Aotea Quays.

Motorists and others passing the building have been scratching their heads as to what purpose the small, square wooden construction might have.

It turns out to be a building with a history.

Originally built around the turn of the 19th century, the tower started life on the north end of Queens Wharf. It housed Morse Code transmitting equipment and a system of lights. Ships rounding Point Halswell would be signalled berthing instructions and other information before they made their way into the inner harbour. A system of coloured lights on the end of each wharf indicated to the incoming vessel which wharf was which.

The advent of radio telephones and the upgrading of the Beacon Hill Signal Station saw the tower outlive its usefulness. Then, sometime in the late ‘70s, it was moved to the end of Pipitea Wharf to be closer to the centre of the port's activities and, for the brief period it was at that location, it continued to play a useful role in ship-to-shore signalling.

Now the building – renamed Pipitea Tower – has a new role and location.

CentrePort's Marine Services Manager, Captain Charles Smith, says the upper floor has been equipped as an office for staff involved in the port's burgeoning cruise ship business, while the ground floor is equipped for use by port security staff. Wellington's cruise season started last Sunday with the arrival of the Star Princess.

CentrePort welcomed 58 cruise ships last season and while the number of ship visiting Wellington will be slightly fewer this year, the liners calling will be bigger and total visitor numbers will be up.

The tower's yellow and black chequering replicates the original colour scheme.

Charles Smith thinks the building has found its final home – but that's not something he's prepared to bet on.

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