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Invercargill Water Tower


Invercargill water tower Invercargill water tower Invercargill water tower Invercargill water tower

Invercargill Water Tower (1889)

Utility and beauty

Fire always threatened colonial towns, where the mix of wooden buildings and dry summer spells could be an explosive combination. Local authorities struggled to supply adequate amounts of pressurised water and 19th-century New Zealand suffered many great fires. In the late 1880s the Invercargill Borough Council decided to build a water tower on part of the green belt. Ratepayers wanted the tower but not on the town belt, so architect-engineer William Sharp suggested blunting criticism by disguising the 300,000-litre steel tank with an elaborate brick tower. There were still a few ‘croakers’, but not enough to stop the foundation-laying ceremony on 18 December 1888.

Twelve months’ work and 300,000 bricks gave Invercargill a 42.6-m-high landmark that serves it still. The cupola was dismantled in 1934 but recreated in replica in 1989 when the polychromatic brickwork was restored, taking the old tower into its second century.

Further information

This site is item number 67 on the History of New Zealand in 100 Places list.



Text: Gavin McLean, 2013

Main image: Natalia V (Flickr)

Other contemporary image: Mr Bungle (Wikimedia)

Historic images:

Alexander Turnbull Library
References: APG-1070-1/2-G (photograph by Albert Percy Godber), 1/2-002776-G and 1/2-140682-G (photograph by William Williams)
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any reuse of their images.

How to cite this page

Invercargill Water Tower, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated