Akaroa’s former customs house is a fine example of the attractive simplicity of buildings put up when New Zealand was still a young country. It is a plain rectangle with a pitched roof and small entrance porch. Restrained decorative detail – the bargeboards and bracketed window hoods – illustrate the wish of colonial New Zealanders to give even small, plain public buildings a dignified air.
Akaroa was proclaimed a customs port of entry in 1842, so that officials could control the entry of alcohol which was being smuggled into the infant town. The town’s customs officers used various premises until this building was erected in 1858. It was built of pit-sawn timber, with earth as insulation in the walls.
Not long after this customs house had been built, shipping started to use the “Town” jetty, built in 1858-59 at the other end of town, rather then the original “French” jetty which was close by the customs house. From about 1880, the former customs house was used as a solicitor’s office. Later it became the shed of the Borough Council’s gardener.
It was given to the Akaroa Museum in 1970 and restored in 1974. It has been furnished as a customs house of the 1850s.