Forts of Auckland

Preserving history

News and events

Recent press release - What is in the North Head Tunnels?

Its time you had a peek “inside” with your own tour guide with keys to access those “secret” places.  The popular summer weekend tours have started again.

 Ever wondered what is in the hidden tunnels in North Head? What happened to the original Boeing aeroplanes? What was the “Kaskowiski”? Who was “Ali Barber”?

 This volcanic mountain (named Maungauika by Maori) is strategically positioned above the shipping channel which rounds it into the inner harbour. North Head is a natural lookout and defensive position for the harbour, and has been used for this purpose for centuries. Many fortifications were built. The old gun emplacements and underground connecting tunnels have been restored and now you can explore with a guide - bring a torch!

 

The Auckland Coastal Defences Historical Trust is registered with DOC to conduct guided walking tours and have access to areas that are normally closed to the public.

Some of the highlights include:

·         The location and history of Gun emplacements from 1870s to 1950s.

·         The Russian scare and "Kaskowiski" and the missing "Boeings"

·         Actual guns including the 8-inch BLHP "disappearing gun" and saluting battery.

·         Supporting magazines, Observation Posts, engineering, searchlight positions, stores, offices and accommodation.

·         And lots of dark, mysterious and historic tunnels!!

·         The path of the proposed Memorial Walkway commemorating New Zealand’s fallen.

This year there will be a focus on activities around the WW1 period. Regular tours are run throughout the summer starting at 10 am Saturday and Sunday from the Navy Museum in Torpedo Bay. Cost $10 per adult, $5 per child or $25 per family. Call 09 4455186 or email tours@forts.org.nz to book.

Group tours can be booked for other times. They can be adapted to meet the needs of your group and the time required, and can include Fort Takapuna.

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"New Harbour Crossing gets the go ahead" 

The crossing is funded and now only needs consents. What this means is that if you wish to walk around the base of North Head, you will be able to do so without clambering over rocks. At the moment you can only go so far without having to walk on rocks that could be slippery and dangerous especially for those that are not so young or athletic. The gap between the Navy Museum and the steps up to the Searchlight position will soon be a bridge like structure crossing just below the high tide line.  We hope to put some images of the proposed plans in the very near future. Watch this space. It is expected that completion for this project will be in 12 months, around the end of 2015. 

Here is the proposed plan

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Proposed memorial walkway on Maungauika

Another exciting development that in the offing is the development of a new walkway.  The proposed memorial walkway is designed to honour those ho have served and supported the defence of New Zealand in peace of war.  The paved pathway will link five rest areas with monuments erected to remember the major conflict periods in New Zealand's history:

  • Colonial
  • World War I
  • World War II
  • peace keeping

The entrance could be an appropriate waharoa which acknowledges the significant contributions of the tangata whenua to all historical periods, and their place in the history of Aoteroa settlement.

The continuous Memorial Walkway will start each period (Colonial, World War 1, etc.) with an area containing an appropriate sculpture or monument with information and images describing the period and campaigns. The area will have space for rest or contemplation, with seating so visitors can also enjoy the spectacular views. The length of the proposed Memorial Walkway will be close to a kilometre, so additional seated areas at intervals will be included.

The Memorial Walkway will initially be laid completely with some selected example inscribed pavers, for each period, and include metal QR codes linking those pavers to a website, such as Cenotaph which provides full military and other history, or Famnet, which currently has over 15 million records of New Zealanders and is used to create family trees and preserve the historical family records of many Kiwis.

Visitors with smart phones will be able to scan the QR codes and read information gathered about each individual, unit, organisation or period scanned.

The proposed Memorial Walkway is flat and accessible from and to the upper car park and could be used by those who may need assistance or in a wheel chair. This caters for our elderly veterans, citizens and the disabled, which is a major plus for this proposal.  

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Historical Connections

 Have you ever visited an old building and wondered what it may have been like living or working in it during earlier days. Sadly, many of us who have lived longer than others have seen many older buildings demolished. Yes, we all have memories of old places from our past and fortunately we have a Historic Places Act which can be used to provide some protection.

Trust members have recently been involved in trying to ensure some older buildings are restored outwardly close to the original, and inwardly to be of future benefit for the local community. These are two old barrack blocks at Fort

Takapuna(170 Vauxhall Rd, Devonport).

 

This is how the barracks have been since the early 1990’s. Boarded and unusable.

 In recent years with Iwi claims and Government and Council selling and giving away land and buildings without reference to local communities, historical buildings and places have been easy targets. 

Members of the Auckland Coastal Defences Historic Trust (ACDHT – see www.forts.org.nz ) have over several years, made representations to many organizations to try and protect our local historical military heritage. While the buildings may not appeal aesthetically to the civil community, many ex servicemen have fond memories of living in these barrack blocks, with communal sleeping areas, and ablutions. There are many stories about the “happenings” in the barracks.

 Fortunately we managed, along with others, to get the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board interested in restoring the two heritage-listed barracks at Fort Takapuna, Narrow Neck, for use as community spaces.

The barracks, were built in 1939, and used until the 1990’s, providing accommodation for thousands of soldiers both in preparing for war and peace. They are a significant part of Devonport’s military history.

The restoration was funded by Devonport-Takapuna Local Board.

The restoration included:

  • Re-roofing, structural and insulation works
  • New kitchen and bathroom areas
  • Landscaping

 

 Devonport-Takapuna Local Board Chair Mike Cohen, pictured above, says the project will provide highly valued community spaces for local residents, organisations and groups to use, as well as preserving a key part of Devonport’s strong military heritage.

 “We are really fortunate that this opportunity arose to recognise our coastal military heritage,” he says.

 “We were able to restore and save these buildings from neglect and they can be used constructively for community organisations.”

 The two very special heritage buildings are now restored and will soon be available for the community to enjoy.

 The two barracks now have large hall spaces and smaller rooms that groups can hire and use for a range of activities, from fitness classes to meetings. The community spaces were opened in June.

 The project brought together several of the objectives stated in the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board Plan as well as meeting ACDHT objectives. These include cherishing the area’s heritage and providing facilities that enable community wellbeing, as well as preserving our historical military buildings and connections.


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