Historic Baches on Rangitoto Island

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Rangitoto Bach - photo Stuart Braithwaite

Rangitoto Island, part of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, is a significant and well known Auckland landmark. Not so well known are the three Bach Settlements on the Island; Rangitoto Wharf, Islington Bay and Beacon End.

Built in the 1920’s and 30’s the settlements consisted of private holiday dwellings and boatsheds as well as communal facilities such as paths, a swimming pool, community hall and tennis courts. As a result of a prohibition order on further building in 1937, the remnants of the Rangitoto Bach communities are now irreplaceable artifacts of New Zealand’s architectural and social history.

The Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust has restored “Bach 38” as a museum. “Bach 38” was built in 1928 for the first caretaker appointed in 1911, Mr Pooley, on his retirement. The restoration took four years of work from volunteers and professional builders and received an Honourable Mention in the 2008 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards. The museum gives visitors a glimpse of bach holidays from the 1930s to the 1960s, when holidays here involved fishing, swimming races, dances, fancy dress competitions, and simple living for generations of families in this bach community.

The RIHC Trust was formed in 1997 to retain, restore and interpret the baches left on the island. Bach 38 was opened in April 2005 and a second Bach 114 at Islington Bay is nearing completion. Work has also started on Bach 103 - Flounder Inn at Gardiners Gap and Bach 52 at Rangitoto Wharf.  Both have had conservation plans written up and their roofs replaced. The Trust is supported by Department of Conservation, the Auckland City Council Heritage Division and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Islington Bay

Islington Bay was essentially isolated until the first jetty was built in 1925. The community was serviced by a launch contracted by the bach holders themselves. A road to Rangitoto Wharf was completed in 1933 allowing access for provisions and access to the island caretaker.

For the first decade there were no public facilities so socialising was informal; either outdoors or in the baches there. Everyone in the community helped to build other baches, provide and share supplies and partake in the informal social activities.

The Trust has started restoration of a mid-1920’s bach at Islington Bay. Because the terms of the lease did not allow for additions or alterations “bach 78” is largely original with only the verandah being enclosed. The structure is considered significant as a representative example of an identifiable vernacular Rangitoto bach with its prominent position and visibility within the Bay.

Its features include many aspects of the bungalow/cottage style with low ridge roof, parallel to the sea, built using salvaged materials and improvised building techniques, with the bach extensively glazed for sea views .

Since the lease expired in the early 1990s the Department of Conservation has retained ownership of the bach but has been unable to do maintenance.

The bunkhouse was once a honey shed for the processing of the island’s famous pohutukawa honey. The bach contains examples of 1930’s linoleum patterns and other artifacts of the era.

History of Rangitoto Island Domain

17 July 1890: Rangitoto Island becomes a Public Domain governed by the Corporation of the Borough of Devonport (Rangitoto Island Domain Board)

1897: First wharf built, and track to the summit. Landing Tax 1d per adult, 1/2d per child.

1911: Domain Board issued leases for campsites at 2 pounds per year. Mr Pooley appointed caretaker.

1917: Mr Pooley applied to build kiosk and tearooms.

1918: Sites for permanent buildings with approved sanitation.

Increase in baches: 1927:59,1937:140.

1926-33: Mt. Eden prisoners build road to Beacon End and Islington Bay, swimming pool at Rangitoto Wharf and Hall at Islington Bay.

1935-36: Minister of Lands reviews legality of leases.

1937: No further leases for sites allowed. Existing leases given 20 years in recognition of their care of the Island.

1957: 95 leases issued for 33 years. Strict conditions: no sale, exchange or rent, no additions or alterations. On death of lessee bach removed or demolished.

1970-80s: Significant number of baches demolished.

1990: Renewal of leases for 34 baches for a further 33 years. Moratorium on demolition during architectural and historical study by the Department of Conservation.

1997: The three communities registered as Historic Areas by New Zealand Historic Places Trust. Formation of the Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust.

1998: Auckland City, undertakes heritage assessment.

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Bach interior with scones Scones at Bach 38
Work on Bach114 Work on Bach114
Photo: Stuart Braithwaite Rangitoto keyhole bach, photo: Stuart Braithwaite
Photo-Stuart Braithwaite Historic Rangitoto bach on rock, photo: Stuart Braithwaite
Rangitoto bach photo:emmamccleary, Flickr Creative Commons Rangitoto, Bach 38 photo:emmamccleary, Flickr Creative Commons
Patterned lino at historic Bach 38 Patterned lino at historic Bach 38
Piwa perched