Port of Lyttelton
Review and History

The Port of Lyttelton is located in the Christchurch urban area on eastern South Island in New Zealand. Lying on the shores of Lyttelton Harbor, it is about 13 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean on the Banks Peninsula. Located 12 kilometers southeast of and acting as the port for Christchurch, the Port of Lyttelton has a low-water depth of 10 meters and can accommodate the largest modern vessels. The port imports fertilizers, petroleum products, and iron and steel, and it exports wool, wheat, diary products, timber, and frozen meats.

With little space in the town, it is dominated by the port with wharves, storage facilities, bulk oil terminals, rail yards, and offices in the Port of Lyttelton serving ocean-going trade. The town also supports clothing factories, engineering firms, construction yards, and ship repair yards. In 2001, over three thousand people called the Port of Lyttelton home.

Port History

The Port of Lyttelton is located in a long-extinct volcano that created Lyttelton Harbor.

The Maori had occupied the area surrounding the Port of Lyttelton for seven hundred years before Europeans arrived. They called it Te whaka raupo. Archaeological evidence in the form of mao bones suggests human habitation there as early as 1250 AD.

In the late 18th Century, whalers and sealers used the harbor for anchorage. In 1770, Captain Cook’s Endeavor first sailed to New Zealand, and European settlers found the Port of Lyttelton, the first European settlement in New Zealand. It was proclaimed an official port in 1849, although it was called Port Cooper and Port Victoria before it was called Port Lyttelton.

The Canterbury Association was created in 1848 to begin a Church of England colony in New Zealand. Finding a good harbor, much potential farming land, and room for development in the Port of Lyttelton area, they established their colony there. The town was established and recognized as a port officially by proclamation in 1849 when a 150-long wharf was built. Ships carrying immigrants soon began to arrive.

The Port of Lyttelton received its name from the Canterbury Association’s George William Lyttelton who led the area’s colonization. By 1851, the Lyttelton Times had become a major newspaper for the Canterbury region, and it continued to operate until 1929.

The first telegraph message in New Zealand was sent from the Port of Lyttelton Post Office in 1862. In 1870, all the wooden buildings on the Port of Lyttelton’s main street were destroyed by a fire. In 1877, The Lyttelton Harbour Board was established to manage both the commercial and recreational facilities at the harbor. The board was made up of 13 elected members who were chosen every three years. In 1908, Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition to Antarctica departed from the Port of Lyttelton.

In 1964, a road tunnel opened and provided a direct link to Christchurch. In 1989, the Lyttelton Harbour Board was split into two organizations when the Port Companies Act was passed in 1988. The commercial Lyttelton Port Company is owned by the commercial arm of the city council, Christchurch City Holdings. The Lyttelton Port Company was registered on New Zealand’s Stock Exchange in 1996. Today, the Christchurch City Council is the single biggest shareholder in the Port of Lyttelton.

The non-commercial organization, the Banks Peninsula District Council, was made responsible for recreation and safety in the Port of Lyttelton. A separate recreational area was created near Magazine Bay Marina on the Naval Point reclamation.

In 2005, Banks Peninsula District’s ratepayers voted to merge with Christchurch City Council. The merger took effect in 2006. Today, you can still see the reminders of the Port of Lyttelton’s past. The old stone dry dock stands at the end of the Godley Quay. The Time Ball Station overlooks the port from a nearby hill.

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