North Head / Maungauika

18 Takarunga Road, Devonport, Auckland

  • North Head / Maungauika, Devonport, Auckland. Aerial image courtesty of .
    Copyright: ATEED - Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development .
  • North Head / Maungauika, Devonport, Auckland. CC BY-SA 2.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: russellstreet. Taken By: russellstreet. Date: 13/11/2010.
  • North Head / Maungauika, Devonport, Auckland. CC BY-SA 2.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: wehunts. Taken By: wehunts. Date: 24/02/2011.
  • North Head / Maungauika, Devonort, Auckland. Vanishing Gun. Images courtesy of
    Copyright: Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 19/02/2012.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 7005 Date Entered 6th April 2001 Date of Effect 6th April 2001


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land known as Sec 1 SO 454837 (RT 710913; NZ Gazette 2014, p. 3240), North Auckland Land District, and the buildings and structures known as North Head / Maungauika thereon. Extent includes underground buildings and structures within the land.

City/District Council

Auckland Council


Auckland Council

Legal description

Sec 1 SO 454837 (RT 710913; NZ Gazette 2014, p. 3240), North Auckland Land District

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

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

Historical: North Head was regarded as the key element in the Auckland defensive system until World War II. It was the most substantial and the most prominently sited of the inner city defences. In earlier times North Head's defensive qualities were probably apparent to Maori. These qualities were also well appreciated by military planners, beginning with Thomas Mould, a Royal Engineer, who in 1860 suggested it as a possible defensive site. The first guns were emplaced on the head in 1870. Jervois's first proposal for Auckland's defences, in 1871, included North Head, and when his plans for the defence of New Zealand's major ports were adopted in 1885, North Head was one of the first Auckland sites chosen.

After the initial construction activity of 1885-86 the defences were regularly improved and expanded until the end of World War II. The army and navy have both occupied North Head at one time or another and have given the promontory a lively and varied history. North Head can be considered to have had the longest continuous role in the land-based defence of New Zealand of any place and is arguably the most significant of all New Zealand's historic coastal defences.

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

Architectural/Technological: The site of North Head was the key Auckland defence in 1885. By World War II North Head had the greatest range of gun emplacements and general defence installations of any New Zealand land-based fortification.

Today the remaining structures at North Head are numerous. The complex comprises: Fort Cautley/Summit Battery, North Battery, South Battery, the 12-pounder battery, the 6-inch Mk VII battery, the 6-pounder battery, the boom battery, the minefield upper searchlight, magazine, test/generator room, generator room, searchlights (1915, 1937, 1942), old searchlights 1 & 2, generator room foundation, minefield defence control, gunnery training area, 4-inch battery observation post, tramway pulley, 6-inch gun, barracks (1885), stone kitchen (1885), the 6-inch battery observation post (BOP), the fire control post, store (1910) and numerous offices I barracks (1940s). There are also some non-military structures.

The significant remaining structures are, or are located near, Cautley or Summit Battery, South Battery, North Battery and the battery camp.

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

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

North Head's battery camp contains some of the country's most important historic fort-associated structures. The batteries built on North Head prior to World War II had buildings and underground structures erected to serve those batteries and some of those structures survive along with later buildings. Most periods of activity at North Head are represented by some form of building or structure. The second 'Russian

Scare' saw a number of buildings erected on the summit within what became Fort Cautley (begun in 1885). Of those buildings two are still intact. They are the main barracks building (1886) and kitchen (also 1886). The entire site incorporates a range of buildings and structures (1885-1944) that illustrate the change in defence needs, armaments and the different roles of the army and navy over that time.

After the initial 1885/6 construction and prior to World War II, a number of other buildings were erected, Among those surviving are the 6-inch Mark VII battery observation post (1911) and a store building, also erected about this time. The later (1937) fire command post also still remains.

The vast majority of buildings remaining, six of the eleven, date from the beginning of World War II. Some 30 buildings were erected in the period 1939-40 but most were demolished by the Hauraki Maritime Park Board in the period after it took over control of most of North Head in 1972. Those that remain were under the control and management of the RNZN. These buildings were originally officer's quarters (2), an officer's mess, an NCO dormitory and two administration buildings. In later years the buildings were used for a variety of navy uses - classrooms, mess rooms and as administration rooms.

A continuity of use has helped the survival of North Head's remaining selection of what was a much larger pool of buildings. The remaining pre- and intra-World War II buildings represent an important part of the history of North Head, arguably the most historically important of all New Zealand's coastal forts. That significance is signalled by its status as an historic reserve.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

Ideas: Fort Cautley or Summit Battery has a very long history of use. It was first occupied by temporarily erected 7-inch rifled muzzle loaders in 1885, within a redoubt or defensive earthworks. In 1888 an 8-inch breach loading hydro pneumatic was emplaced there, followed by two, flanking 6-pounder quick firing guns. Shortly thereafter, in 1890-91, the battery was rebuilt. The rifled muzzle loaders were declared obsolete in 1904 and after the building of the 6-inch Mk VII battery (see below) the remaining facilities fell into disuse or were scrapped. Today only the emplacements and associated camp buildings are intact.

Below Fort Cautley is the emplacement for the 6-inch Mk VII gun, the only surviving gun emplacement built in New Zealand between 1905 and 1935, a period of otherwise little activity in coastal defence construction. Two 6-inch Mk VII batteries were built during this period and the other battery, at Fort Dorset, Wellington, is now demolished. As a representative of that very small pool, the 6-inch battery at North

Head, completed in 1911, can be regarded as being of great significance. North Head was the main coast defence in the Auckland Fire Command until the completion of the Motutapu Battery in 1939. Cautley Battery went on to perform a great range of uses. In 1941 its guns were removed to Whangaparaoa to cover the Whangaparaoa Passage until the 9.2-inch counter-bombardment battery was completed (1946). In 1951 the guns were brought back to act as a training battery, and as such they had the dubious honour of firing the last full charge practice shoot of the Royal New Zealand Army Coast Artillery, in 1958.

South Battery has also had a long history of use. The first gun, a 64-pounder rifled muzzle loading (RML), was hastily emplaced in 1885 and augmented by an 8-inch B.L.RP. in 1888. In 1892-3 the old RML was moved closer to the cliff edge to cover the minefield next to North Head and supplemented with a quick firing 6-pounder. The last ordnance emplaced at North Head in the 19th century was a 12-pounder battery at South Battery, the emplacement which survives to this day. It was built between 1898 and 1901. Its guns remained in active use for a long time - until the end of World War II - and were an important part of North Head's varied defence complex. It was built to cover the minefield between North Head and Bastion Point. However, these were not the first guns emplaced here. Prison labourers mined the battery structure out of the volcanic rock cone of North Head; accommodation was provided in the North Head barracks. This battery was in service from completion to the abolition of coast artillery in the New Zealand Army in 1958, one of the longest periods of service by a coast artillery gun in New Zealand. The site in general was in continual use for 73 years. One of the 12-pounder guns survives, at Queen Elizabeth II Army Museum, Waiouru.

North Battery is another part of North Head which has had a long and variable history. The site of this battery was originally occupied by a 7-inch RML later replaced (1888) by an 8-inch breach loading hydro-pneumatic (BLHP). In 1942 this gun, a Mk VII, was removed and the pit roofed over with concrete to allow the building of an examination battery. A number of examination batteries were installed, at the start of

World War II, at New Zealand's major ports. These batteries employed 4-inch guns taken from HMS New Zealand, commissioned in 1911. The battle-cruiser's guns were removed from the ship when it was scrapped and two were put on display outside Auckland Museum. A number of these guns were later recommissioned for active service in World War II.

The two 4-inch Mk VII guns were moved here from the nearby Takapuna battery. The existing magazine and crew shelters at the battery were adopted for use. Two standard design emplacements with 'Colchester' type overhead cover were constructed, linked with a connecting passage, while a tunnel linked the emplacements to the renovated Victorian battery structure. A new BOP was erected. This battery was relegated to training uses late in the war and remained in use for Coast Artillery cadre training right up to the abolition of coast artillery in 1958.

After the battery site was handed over to the (then) Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park Board, the underground part of the battery was, for a period, leased to a mushroom farmer. As a result of this, access to the underground parts of the battery site was secured and protected. This is a significant example of a battery with a long and varied history. Once a Victorian-era battery (elements of which still remain) it was successfully adapted for re-use over 50 years after it was first built, using guns that were similarly returned to active service.

(f) The potential of the place for public education:

North Head has a very high public profile, due partly to its proximity to the North Shore and Auckland in general. It is also very visible from many parts of Auckland. Consequently it is the most visited piece of land managed by DOC in Auckland and, indeed, the whole country. There is great potential for North Head to raise its profile even higher with a quality restoration of remaining structures and ordnance allied with interpretation and visitor education. In particular the summit buildings have not been part of the area open to the public and appreciation of their role at North Head will change when they are properly exhibited and interpreted.

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


Fort Cautley, South Battery, North Battery: All commenced 1885


Major Cautley, R.K (Royal Engineers)


MIL 9: Coastal Defence Fortifications & Gun Batteries, 1885-1945

MIL 12: Post Victorian Coastal Defence Batteries, 1905-45

Of North Head's remaining significant structures, the design of the 6-inch Mk VII battery near Fort Cautley is of considerable note internationally, being an example of the early 1900s 'off the shelf' 6-inch battery design from the War Office in London; the layout of emplacements and magazines is nearly identical to others built around the same time, e.g. Devil's Gap at Gibraltar and Derrycreveen in Ireland. As the battery at Fort Dorset, New Zealand's only other comparable 6-inch installation built at this time, has largely been destroyed, the North Head battery can be regarded as a site of exceptional significance nationally and internationally.

This emplacement was fitted with the latest 6-inch gun, the steel and wire Mk VII. It was later augmented with a BOP which allowed the operation of the first Depression Range Finder (DRF) in New Zealand. It was not successful, however, because the height of the BOP did not allow the DRF to be operated effectively. Later, in 1937, a new BOP was constructed near to the summit of North Head, close to the now

abandoned Summit or Cautley Battery. The battery, although stripped of fittings and linings when the guns were scrapped, is in excellent condition, as are the two BOPs. The first of the BOPs is unique in structure, this being the first BOP erected in New Zealand, there being no obvious prototype. The second is of the more functional rectangular type adopted from the mid 1930s onwards.

North Battery remains one of the best examples in New Zealand of an installation where Victorian and 20th century technology and construction have been linked together. However, although the underground installations remain in good order, the two 'Colchester' emplacements are in a poor condition. After years of exposure to the prevailing sea winds, the exposed iron reinforcing and securing bolts in the structures have began to decay and concrete spalling is advanced. This has reached the stage that both emplacements are dangerous and now closed to public access. The Battery Observation Post remains intact and, significantly, retains its panoramic mural. This is an important example of a practical conversion of a fortification into a more modern battery.

South Battery's l2-pounder battery, when first constructed consisted of two crew shelters, a lamp passage and a magazine, all excavated from the hill and then matchlined with wood. Two concrete emplacements were built in front of the magazines and a directing station directly above the battery. The battery site, although stripped and all its timber removed, is in very good condition. This is a place of very great significance, because of its length of service and condition.

The associated buildings at North Head are largely built of timber. The BOP is predominantly concrete in construction, as is the later fire command post (FCP). The former is 'lined out' with cement plaster and shows that in 1911 the appearance of these utilitarian structures was still considered important. The FCP is also a product of its times and its plain concrete construction was a forerunner of imminent World War II buildings.

The other buildings are of a typically simple and vernacular construction, built to a relatively uniform Public Works Department design. The early buildings have much in common with those built at the same time at Ripapa Island. The later buildings at North Head continue the tradition of plain 'no-frills' design that has generally marked defence construction in New Zealand. In fact, if anything, the North Head buildings, with their tongue and groove lined interiors, show a greater attention to detail than the earlier structures. These modest, unpretentious buildings are representative of a significant but fast diminishing stock of timber World War II buildings. A lack of maintenance in recent years is, however, obvious.

Today apart from the main 20th century emplacements there are a number of important physical features. There is an intact 8-inch breach loading hydro-pneumatic (BLHP) gun complete with its carriage. There are very few remaining in situ in the country. It is not in working condition.

Some of the guns that were associated with North Head still exist elsewhere, particularly one of the 12-pounder guns, first emplaced in 1898-1901. This offers the possibility that ordnance could be returned to the place they were first mounted.


Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1870 -

Information Sources

Fox, 1893

Lieutenant-Colonel F J Fox, 'Report on The New Zealand Defence Works and Armaments', Part II, Wellington, 1893

Mitchell, 1995

J Mitchell, 'The Disappearing Guns of Auckland: The History and Archaeology of the forts of Auckland Harbour', Thesis in fulfilment of Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology, Auckland University, 1995

New Zealand Defence Force

New Zealand Defence Force

AI054/2495B Pt.l North Head and Takapuna Defences 1911-12; AI054/2495A Pt.2 North Head and Takapuna Defences 1912-15; AI054/2495C PU North Head and Takapuna Defences, 1915-16; AI05412489A Pt.4 North Head and TakapunaDefences, 1919-24; AI05412489B Pt.5 North Head and Takapuna Defences, 1924-26; AI054/2489C Pt.6 North Head and Takapuna Defences, 1927-28; AI054/2490B Pt. 7 North Head and Takapuna Defences, 1929-33; AI054/2490C Pt.8 North Head and Takapuna Defences, 1935-40; A1054/2490D Pt.9 North Head and Takapuna Defences, 1937-38; AI054/2490A Pt.l0 North Head and Takapuna Defences, 1934

McGibbon, 1991

I McGibbon. The Path to Gallipoli. GP Books, Wellington, 1991

Langford, 1979

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

Conservation Plan

Conservation Plan

Treadwell Associates 1996, Conservation Plan for the North Head Summit Buildings, Department of Conservation, Auckland

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.