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Introduction

Ripapa Island Historic Reserve is closed to the public due to safety concerns from earthquake damage.

Tucked close against the southern shore of Whakaraupō (Lyttelton Harbour), the small island of Ripapa was an ideal site for a fortified pa for Ngāi Tahu and later, a fortress to defend against Russian attacks.

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History and culture

Disappearing gun at sunrise, Fort Jervois, Ripapa Island. Photo: C. S. Robertson.
Disappearing gun at sunrise, 
Fort Jervois, Ripapa Island

Tucked close against the southern shore of Whakaraupō (Lyttelton Harbour), the small island of Ripapa was an ideal site for a fortified pa for Ngāi Tahu and later, a fortress to defend against Russian attacks.

Small island - big history

The fortified pa was built on Ripapa Island in the early nineteenth century by Taununu, a Ngai Tahu chief who had moved south from Kaikoura.

Several skirmishes were fought on the shores and slopes surrounding Ripapa. Ngāi Tahu occupied Ripapa until about 1832, when the chief Te Whakarukeruke left to help defend Kaiapoi against Te Rauparaha.

Ripapa Island was used as a quarantine station for new immigrants from 1873 to 1885. In 1880 the Island was used temporarily as a prison for 150 of Te Whiti’s followers, transported from Taranaki.

Displays on the island provide more information about its history.

Fort Jervois on Ripapa Island

Fort Jervois, Ripapa Island. Photo: RNZAF Official, via Air Force Museum, Chirstchurch.
RNZAF aerial photo of Fort Jervois taken in 1937

One of four sites used to defend Lyttleton Harbour, Ripapa Island was built in response to a perceived "Russian scare". The walled fort, dating from 1886, survives today and is the most complete "Russian scare" fort in New Zealand. Of particular significance are two large disappearing guns, still virtually complete, which very rare examples of their kind. The fort was occupied by the army until the end of World War I and re-occupied again during World War II.

The quarantine station

Ripapa Island was used as a quarantine station for new immigrants from 1873 to 1885. In 1880 the Island was used temporarily as a prison for 150 of Te Whiti’s followers, transported from Taranaki. The quarantine buildings were dismantled when the Island was incorporated into the coastal defence scheme.

The fort

Fort Jervoi, Ripapa Island.
Fort Jervois, Ripapa Island

Ripapa Island was one of four sites used for the Lyttleton Harbour defences, part of the nationwide system of coastal defences, built in response to a perceived "Russian scare".

The walled fort, dating from 1886, survives today and is the most complete "Russian scare" fort in New Zealand. Of particular significance are two large disappearing guns, still virtually complete, which very rare examples of their kind.

The fort was occupied by the army until the end of World War I and re-occupied again during World War II as part of the harbour defences. The Island has been managed by the Department of Conservation since 1990. All periods of the Island’s use enhance its historical significance and appeal.

Historic conservation

Ripapa Island is registered Category 1 by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and an historic reserve. It has been given an "actively managed" status by the Department of Conservation.

A concept plan for the island approved by the Historic Places Trust outlines policies for the fort’s continued protection and preservation. The Department was progressively repairing the deterioration in the fort's condition over the past 100 years until the earthquakes of 2011. The fort is now closed until it can be made safe.

Getting there

Ripapa Island Historic Reserve is closed to the public due to safety concerns from earthquake damage.

The island was only accessible by boat. It is located on the southern shores of Lyttelton Harbour (Whakaraupō), near Christchurch.

Know before you go

Ngāi Tahu wish to encourage understanding of and respect for the values of this special place. Any visitors were asked to be aware that eating food on the island denigrates its tapu status.

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