Very few of Hamburg’s inhabitants have ever set foot on the city’s most northern quarter. Since the end of the 13th century, the island of Neuwerk has belonged to the city, and today it forms the centre of Hamburg’s Wadden Sea National Park (NPHW), founded in 1990. The national park is also a biosphere reserve and is recognised by UNESCO as a natural site on the World Heritage List. In this unique and sensitive landscape, we observe the public interests of the HPA on the island. The range of duties is diverse and also encompasses the listed Neuwerk lighthouse tower, the oldest building in Hamburg.
The small island only counts about 31 inhabitants. The most important branch of industry is by far the tourism. To maintain the infrastructure's good condition and to guarantee smooth operations, HPA takes on a broad range of tasks on behalf of the city of Hamburg. Our twelve employees are responsible for almost any interests of the public service, e.g.:
With our 12 employees, who work in shifts of ten days followed by ten days off, ensure that islanders and tourists feel at home. For the duration of their stay on the island, our employees live in accommodation where they can either spend their evenings in their private rooms or with the others. Whilst colleagues alternate in the summer season from March to the 12th October, the group is split up for the winter months. But everyone is still busy in periods when there are few tourists. Not least because of the tides and the yearly autumn and winter storms, the HPA’s work on Neuwerk never stops. For example, the mud flat path used by tourists and supply wagons has to be marked out again every year. The embankments and sewage canals must also be regularly checked and maintained. And even tiny tourist magnets such as the bathing house on the beach have to be partially dismantled and made winterproof, so that the island of Neuwerk can remain a green and dry holiday paradise in the middle of the Wadden Sea Conservation Area for the people of Hamburg and tourists.
Doing the weekly shop, shopping and going to the cinema – these are all everyday things for the people of Hamburg, but for the islanders this requires a lot more effort. A small stall, which only sells the essentials, is the only shopping option on Neuwerk All other items, such as food, tools and furniture, have to be brought over from the mainland. Yet despite the limited leisure opportunities, the inhabitants never get bored, especially during the summer months. During this time, they look after their main source of income: tourism. But they still can’t put their feet up from October to March because they need to prepare for the next season. Therefore, the hotels and mud flat paths whipped into shape and other precautions are taken. Also, time to spend with family can’t come soon enough. Children can only go to Neuwerk’s primary school until year 4 before they go to a boarding school on the mainland.
Neuwerk is especially known for its tower 35 meters high. It has been built in 1300 to function as a navigational sign as well as an outpost against pirates and robbers. After a fire the building was renovated from 1376-79 by the city of Hamburg which makes it Hamburg's oldest construction to this day. Today, there is no nautical significance for the tower. Besides, since 2014 the signal light is no longer an official navigational sign, but it's still run as a so called 'private fire'.