HMNZS Tamaki at Narrow Neck

The Royal New Zealand Navy’s association with Narrow Neck really only dates from 1963, when the Training establishment, HMNZS Tamaki, moved into some surplus Army space.  At that time there was still a strong army presence, in fact during the flag raising ceremony on 26 September, what was to become the Administration Block, just inside the main entrance, was still divided into flats and the slightly bemused residents watched the ceremony from their windows.

 

The Royal New Zealand Navy’s association with Narrow Neck really only dates from 1963, when the Training establishment, HMNZS Tamaki, moved into some surplus Army space.  At that time there was still a strong army presence, in fact during the flag raising ceremony on 26 September, what was to become the Administration Block, just inside the main entrance, was still divided into flats and the slightly bemused residents watched the ceremony from their windows.

It was, however, a naval threat that caused this fort to be constructed.  It was part of a series of defences erected at the main ports, to defend them against a possible raid by an enemy cruiser.  The result of such a raid was highlighted in a report published in The New Zealander, the major newspaper of the day, when it reported that Auckland had been shelled by a Russian cruiser, much damage had been done to the business district and Russian sailors had landed and looted shops.   In those days before the telephone and mass communications, this report caused considerable alarm and many thought the Empire would go to war.  That is until the phonetics of the name of the Russian ship were realised – it read “Case of Whisky”.

The Navy came to Fort Takapuna in 1927.  By that time the fort was obsolete and not required by the Army.  We used it to house ammunition for our cruisers.  Previously it had been stored at Mount Victoria and then North Head, but by then the storage of explosives at Mount Victoria was considered unacceptable by both the Defence Department and the residents, and the North Head magazines were required by the Army.

In addition to actually storing the explosives, there was a requirement to test various parts of the ammunition, and a proofing building was constructed alongside (under the Morton Bay Fig Tree).  As had been experienced from the first days of the fort, there were several drawbacks to using this facility.  Dave Veart of the Department of Conservation, who is here today, will readily attest to one of the main problems – it is readily prone to flooding – even with the best of maintenance.  It was with much rejoicing that in 1936 the Navy moved its explosives to a new, purpose-built facility in a sparsely populated area of the North Shore – Kauri Point.

While the Navy moved, the Army remained.  During the Second World War there was much activity in the area surrounding the fort and over on the southern side of the playing field, a monitoring station for the fixed anti-submarine defences of Auckland – Station Puna – was built.  With the end of the war, the Navy again vacated the area.

The RNZN returned in 1963.  At that time the old quarantine station on Motuihe Island, which had been built around the turn of the century was in urgent need of serious maintenance and rebuilding.  With all factors taken into consideration, it was decided that we would share the surrounding facilities with the Army.  Although there were periodic conflicts of interest, the relationship was generally satisfactory. With periodic reorganisations of the Army, its presence was gradually reduced, until at last only the Officers’ mess remained an Army facility, although run entirely by the Navy.

Background – Narrow Neck Camp/HMNZS Tamaki

Jan 1886         Land purchased from Robert Adam Mozley Stark for   £17,000.   This transaction was the subject of some rumours of scandal as Mr Stark had been unable to sell ten acres of the land in October the previous year for £3,000.

1886-89           Fort Takapuna constructed, comprising 2 x 6-inch BL guns and 2 x 6-pdr Nordenfelts, plus associated magazines, accommodation etc.

1900-14           Utilised as depot for Volunteers and later Territorial Force elements

First World War

1914-1918       The main camp constructed for use as recruit depot, including Maori and Pacific Island Pioneer units of 1NZEF

1918       German POWs ex Motuihe Island held at the camp, prior to repatriation

1919        Hospital built for influenza epidemic (NTG buildings and OTS Classrooms 1970s and 1980s)

Post First World War Headquarters for Artillery and Territorial Units

1926      6-inch guns scrapped

1927-36           Navy use magazines and fort for storage of ammunition and testing facility

1936       AA Battery stationed at the camp and Artillery Barracks Completed

1937-39           2 x 4 inch guns installed on right boundary to cover Examination anchorage

2 x 4 inch guns installed on boundary at centre of camp to cover Rangitoto channel. Officers and Troops Messes constructed

Second World War

1939-41         48 new buildings constructed, including hospital, recreation huts, stores, messes, canteens and cinema as well as parade grounds and roads

2 x 4-inch guns installed on boundary at centre of camp were from HMS New Zealand

1941        4 x 4-inch guns removed – two to North Head and two overseas

Post Second World War

Headquarters for Territorial Units and accommodation for Regular Force personnel in Auckland Area

1958       Narrow Neck Military Camp renamed Fort Cautley (desire to continue name with vacation of Army from North Head)

1963        Navy move HMNZS Tamaki from Motuihe Island – flag shift 26 September.   Base jointly operated.         Additional accommodation moved in to provide for Basic Common Trainees – work done by Army Engineers

c1968       ‘New’ accommodation upgraded. Officers Mess extended. Work undertaken by Army engineers

1993       First navy units move to Ngataringa Bay Basic Common Trainees

1999             12 March.  A judgement from Justice Anderson found that all Defence land at Narrow Neck was a reserve as defined in S.2 of the Reserves Act 1977

2000         On 26 February the Hauraki Gulf Marine Bill received Royal Assent. The Bill has been enacted, and the transfer of the land has been effected. However, due to tenants requiring 42 days notice the whole site was not handed over to DOC until 30 March.

2012         The Navy maintains a presence on the navy land where the Officer Training School is located along with accommodation and technical training workshops.

At present, there is no plans to relocate back to HMNZS Philomel. The Government reaches a Treaty Settlement with Maori for the land at Narrowneck. The RNZN agrees to a 15-year occupation period. This is very controversial as the land should be reserve land and the zoning allows for development.