Motutapu Battery

Motutapu Island

  • Motutapu Battery, Motutapu Island. Image courtesy of www.jonynz.com.
    Copyright: Jonty Crane. Taken By: Jonty Crane. Date: 1/06/2016.
  • Motutapu Battery, Motutapu Island. Image courtesy of www.jonynz.com.
    Copyright: Jonty Crane. Taken By: Jonty Crane. Date: 1/06/2016.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 7471 Date Entered 15th September 2000

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)

Region

Auckland Council

Legal description

Rangitoto SD Blk V Sec 10 (NZ Gazette 1984/2271)

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Historic Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Historical:

The 6-inch 45 degree coastal defence batteries were first approved in 1934, and were the first substantial expression of government anxiety at growing tensions in Europe and Asia. The three batteries in all were built between 1935 and 1943. Initially two batteries were begun, Motutapu and Palmer Head, Wellington, in 1935, and then later, Godley Head, Lyttelton. These batteries were provided as part of a modernisation programme for coast defences, with particular reference to the increase in the number of cruisers in service with the fleets of navies that could be potentially considered hostile. Also, as part of this modernisation, lighter anti-motor torpedo boat guns were ordered for the main defended ports.

The battery camp on Motutapu Island, which was associated with the building of the 6-inch battery, survives virtually intact. It was erected from 1938-40 and later enlarged. There were other, temporary, camps on the island but they have long since gone. The buildings have, since army occupation ended, been used by the Motutapu Trust as an outdoor education camp. The complex has therefore had a history of regular use over 50 years.

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Historic Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Architectural:

Motutapu, ready at the outbreak of war in 1939, was the first counter-bombardment battery built in New Zealand. It was built to designs by the War Office, with work supervised by a British Army Royal Engineers Officer seconded to New Zealand for the purpose. It was, therefore, built almost exactly to the British design. It was later enlarged, from 1940-42, to become the country's largest battery installation.

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Historic Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

DATE: Battery 1939: 1940-42: Camp, 1939-40

ARCHITECT: British War Office & Public Works Department

STYLE CODE: MIL 14: World War II 6-inch Coastal Defence Batteries, 1942-45

The site is of great significance. As the first coastal defence battery in New Zealand it ushered in a new modem era of coastal defence in this country. It was also essentially completed before World War II began, the only battery to be so, and it was the only 6-inch battery to have three emplacements in place from the beginning. It was later extended to become the most complete surviving battery complex in New Zealand. In form it was very similar to the other, comparable batteries, at Palmer Head and Godley Head, and followed the standard War Office design.

The adoption of the new batteries introduced a new technology to New Zealand coast defences. No longer was the range of a gun limited to the effective visual range of its sights and rangefinders, actually far short of the effective range of the gun. Using multiple observation posts, a target's accurate position could be determined and this information passed to the battery. Modifications were also done to gun mountings to allow an elevation greater than 15 degrees, hitherto sufficient to throw shells out to the visual horizon. Elevations were lifted to up to 45 degrees to enable a gun's maximum ballistic range to be met. This system of indirect fire became known as the Fortress System or Counter-Bombardment and greatly increased the effectiveness of these medium range guns. The bigger 9.2-inch guns, having a longer range, were intended to take over this role with the function of keeping all defensive guns including 6-inch batteries beyond the reach of hostile seaborne weapons.

The later extensions to the battery enlarged the camp, provided defence electric lights, an underground fortress plotting room and battery plotting room, radio and engine room, as well as a comprehensive series of battery defences against land assault. Also included in a comprehensive battery complex are the remains of the naval antisubmarine, fixed-defence station Emu, with its observation post and the many surviving buildings of the accommodation camp.

The accommodation camp is comprised of a series of timber gabled structures largely of similar style and dimension. Like their counterparts at other army camps they are utilitarian, plain structures, but their continuity of use (and relative isolation) has allowed them to remain in generally good condition. As a group, these buildings are, with Whangaparaoa, a rare example of near intact camp complex and an important reminder of the extent and role played by such places in World War II. They are also important representatives of the typically utilitarian timber World War II camp building.

The entire complex is a very significant relic of World War II.

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Construction Professionalsopen/close

War Office

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1935 -

Report Written By

Michael Kelly

Information Sources

Grattan, 1948

F G Grattan, 'Official War History of the Public Works Department', Wellington, 1948, Public Works Dept

New Zealand Defence Force

New Zealand Defence Force

Army Department Files:

AD1/203/164/1 Motutapu -Construction

AI054/2157C Pt.l Motutapu - Fort Construction 1935-38

AI054/2157D Pt.2 Motutapu - Fort Construction 1938-41

Al 054/2248C Pt.l Motutapu - General 1942-43

AI054/2248B Pt.2 Motutapu - General 1942-43

Al 0541/ 024A Motutapu - magazines 1942-54

AI 054/2243B Motutapu - mobilisation 1941

AI054/2157B Motutapu-road construction 1935-36

AI054/2248B Pt.1 Motutapu fortifications- general 1935-36

AI054/2248B Pt.2 Motutapu fortifications - general 1937-40

AI054/2248B Pt.3 Motutapu fortifications - general 1940-41

AI054/2248B Pt.1 Motutapu Island Defence - development of defence reserve 1936- 39

AI054/2248B Pt.2 Motutapu Island Defence - development of defence reserve 1939

McIntyre, 1988

W D McIntyre, New Zealand Prepares for War, University of Canterbury Press, Christchurch, 1988

Langford, 1979

J Langford 1979, 'New Zealand Military Architecture in the Second World War', M. Arch sub-thesis, Auckland University

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Northern region office

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.